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Full text of "Heresies Magazine Issue #16: Film / Video / Media (Volume 4, Number 4)"

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Special thanks for production assistance to: Orlando Adaio, 
Cynthia Carr, Nancy Crompton, Abigail Esman, Nina Fonorojf, 
Pete Friedrich, Carole Gregory, Beth Halpern, Sue Heinemann, 
Tish Rosen, Amy Sillman, Carol Sun, Leslie Thornton, Stephanie 
Vevers, Tom Zummer. Thanks to former collective members: 
Carole Glasser, Vanalyne Green, Lyn Hughes, Flama Ocampo, 
Cecilia Vicuna. Thanks for photo research assistance: Association 
of Independent Video and Filmmakers, Black Filmmaker Founda- 
tion, Museum of the American Indian, Third World Newsreel. 
Photos top to bottom: Aide Sharon Larkin, photo by Michael Harris; 
Anne MacArthur, photo by Joan Jubela; J. T. Takagi, Juliana Wang, 
and Christine Choy, photo by Joe Ratke; Susan Stoltz, photo by Keith 
Rodan; Pat Ivers, photo by Joan Jubela. 

present the 

at the 8th Street Playhouse 

Featuring a Benefit Screening of 

by Lizzie Borden 

For more information: 

Second Decade Films 

, P.O. Box 1482 . 

New York, New York 10009 

(212) 691-8838 

This issue was typeset by Myrna Zimmerman, photostats by Frey Photo- 
stats and Carol Sun, headlines by Nina Fonoroff and Scarlett Letters, print- 
ed by Capital City Press, Montpelier, Vermont. 

Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Ah & Politics is published Winter, 
Spring, Summer, and Fall by Heresies Collective, Inc., 611 Broadway, 
Room 609, New York, NY 10012. Subscription rates: $15 for four issues, 
$24 for institutions. Outside the U.S. and Canada add $2 postage. Single 
copies: $5 each. Address all correspondence to: Heresies, PO Box 766, 
Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013. 
Heresies, ISSN 0146-3411. Vol. 4, No. 4. Issue 16. 
: ©1983, Heresies Collective, Inc. All rights reserved. 

i,jBiis publication is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New 

i-;York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

^ere^ei is indexed by the Alternative Press Centre, Box 7229, Baltimore, 

MD 21218. It is a member of COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazine 

Mrtors and Publishers), Box 703, San Francisco, CA 94101. 

■'■:■#"■ "■*'■ ***. 4 








- Y. fi '• 

> U > ■ 5 

The focus of Heresies #16 is on the work women have done, 
and are doing, in film, video, and the media. In choosing this 
focus, we hope to create a sense of community for other feminists 
who feel information is lacking in these areas. Much of the con- 
tent in this issue would have little chance of being published else- 
where—and #16 provides some deserved publicity for these works. 
The recent surge in technology has changed the way we commu- 
nicate, and women have an increasing opportunity to use differ- 
ent forms of media. Our interest in technology is not to suggest 
that women join the ranks of the technocrats, but rather to en- 
courage women to overcome a conditioned fear of technology, 
and to begin to use it as an organizing tool and a source of per- 
sonal expression. 

Putting out a Heresies issue takes a long time, and although all 
of us had had some experience working on collectives and doing 
political work, only one of us was familiar with the entire produc- 
tion process. None of us found it easy, but on reflection, we have 
managed to isolate some of the difficulties. 

Like most nonhierarchical groups, one of the problems we 
failed to face was the distribution of work at each stage. We never 
discussed what working on a collective meant to each of us, what 
our personal commitments could be, or what a reasonable amount 
of responsibility should be. The haphazard organization led to an 
unequal distribution of work. Some members took on more work 
than others, and resentments grew. Because most of us could not 
suspend all non-Heresies work, we all faced a decision in how we 
divided our time. These decisions were not clear-cut. Work outside 
Heresies can be motivated by a desire for personal gain, but it can 
also have political intent. These choices can also be paralleled 
within the collective. One works for Heresies to experience collec- 
tive process, to contribute to a magazine committed to change, or 
to network with other feminists; but it is also possible that one 
might participate to gain recognition in the artworld. Ultimately, 
these choices determined how much work we did for this issue. 

The problem of workload was compounded by unrealistic 
deadlines: for submissions, for rewrites, for editing, and for pro- 
duction. The collective felt further confusion because of the lack of 
a clear definition of #16's theme. The initial grant proposal was for 
a film and TV issue, but by the time our collective was meeting 
regularly, the main collective had expanded the theme to include 
all communication media. Early debates about whether to empha- 
size commercial or artistic work were then further clouded by dis- 
cussions of all forms of media. All these problems forced us to 
hurry through crucial early stages of the collective's formation. 

Under pressure, we never adequately examined the aesthetic, 
political, racial, and sexual differences among us. Disputes about 
the materials — their style, their content, and their feminist politic 
— were frequently taken on a purely personal level, outside of their 
political context. Feminism, like every movement for change, faces 
conflict about strategy. Issue 16's subject matter — the very infor- 
mation channels through which we try to effect change — guaran- 
teed us plenty of conflict. Although we were united in our desire to 
challenge the male-dominated media system, our personal choices 
about the forms of media we worked in outside of Heresies differed 
greatly. These other experiences affected how we chose material 

for the issue, and these differences were implicit in our discussions. 
For instance, is there a correct way to present women's images? 
Can we infiltrate the mass media, or should we leave it alone? Is it 
possible to present radical content in a conventional form? At 
times, positions taken by collective members on such issues were 
mutually exclusive. The wide range of material in the issue reflects 
these disparate visions. Many of our discussions about articles 
forced us to define as well as to defend our own ideas and beliefs 
about media work. We were each strongly committed to our own 
forms, but we did come to realize that other women could be as 
committed to different forms. In the long run, however, some of us 
grew apart because those differences could not be overcome. 

Only one woman on the #16 collective is Black, indicating a 
lack of outreach to Third World and Black communities. Heresies 
has a poor reputation for dealing with the concerns of women of 
color, and not enough distributors in Third World communities 
sell the magazine. The content of many of the previous issues has 
not reflected the needs of Third World women, and no adequate 
mechanism has yet been put into place to address these problems. 
What Heresies needs is more visibility in Third World communi- 
ties. The Heresies collective should more actively solicit Third 
World women for the main collective and the issue collectives. Per- 
haps then women of color would be more interested in submitting 
material and suggesting topics for future issues, thus broadening 
Heresies' horizons. 

The difficulties of #16 arose mostly because we lacked fore- 
sight. Future collectives could approach these problems by taking 
the time early in the process to investigate the differences among 
members, and use this knowledge to establish their own working 
structure. Lulls in the development of the magazine — for instance, 
after the call for submissions and before material begins to arrive 
— could provide this time. The main collective could help further 
by giving a realistic chart of how an issue develops, indicating the 
time period required for each of the various phases of producing a 

As with most issues of Heresies, #16's topic was too broad to be 
covered by one issue. One thing that we agreed about was the need 
for a new journal in which to continue a dialogue about, and devel- 
op networks within, the vital feminist film/video/media arts com- 
munity. At this time, the more activist feminist press devotes little 
space to such work. The few journals which address women and 
film/video concern themselves far more with the male media por- 
trayal of women than with the growing body of work produced by 
women. The feminist academic journals limit themselves to oc- 
casional articles on feminist theory and criticism. As women's 
studies becomes co-opted by the university system, outspoken fem- 
inist academics are fired, and feminism becomes more threatened, 
such a journal becomes crucial to continue the dialogue about 
feminist media. Now is the time to expand our audience to include 
a wider base of women. We see this issue as part of this dialogue. 

Editorial Collective: Diana Agosta, Edith Becker, Loretta Camp- 
bell, Lisa Cartwright, Su Friedrich, Annie Goldson, Joan Jubela, 
Nicky Lindeman, Barbara Osborn. 

Victoria Sctaltz 

Deciding to make an independent doc- 
umentary film with a left and/or feminist 
perspective is asking for trouble. Primarily 
money kind of trouble, since getting fund- 
ing for such projects these days is like pull- 
ing teeth from a Bengali tiger. The film- 
maker must be prepared to spend as much 
time and energy on raising funds as on 
shooting, editing, and writing the film. 
When finally the film is finished, you face 
the hurdle of distribution. Few distributors 
are interested in films with an explicit po- 
litical focus, so you're on your own. The 
distribution work will keep you busy for 
years, if you want the film to be shown a 
lot. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll 
make money, unless you're lucky and get 
sales instead of rentals. But often groups 
that want to show political films have very 
little money and can barely afford a rental. 
In other words, making an independent, 
politically oriented film takes tremendous 
commitment and enthusiasm, at times to 
the point of obsession and fanaticism. You 
also have to believe very strongly that this 
particular film just has to be made. 

I discovered my need to make Women 
in Arms little by little. First I was fasci- 
nated by the newspaper reports of the pres- 
ence of a young woman, Comandante Dos, 
in the bold takeover of the National As- 
sembly building in Nicaragua by a group 
of Sandinistas. Then I heard more and 
more about the very active role of women 
in the military as well as political aspects 
of the Sandinist resistance. On a visit to 
Panama a friend showed me a letter writ- 
ten by a Nicaraguan woman, Idania, to her 
six-year-old daughter, explaining that she 
had to return to Nicaragua and risk death 
so that the children of their country would 
be able to have a better future. Shortly 
after writing the letter, Idania was in fact 
killed by the Nicaraguan National Guard. 

Once I was in Nicaragua I heard more 
stories and met with several women from 
the resistance, but it wasn't until I visited 
the liberated zone of Managua that I 
understood the enormity of what was hap- 
pening. Here women were fighting side by 

A Sandinist fighter guarding the barricades. Photo by Victoria Schultz. 

side with the men in a very dangerous situ- 
ation and this, I was told, was nothing 
unique. (It was on trying to enter this same 
liberated area that ABC correspondent Bill 
Stewart was killed in cold blood by the 
National Guard.) The visceral experience 
of fear I describe in my journal fueled me 
with an intense sense of the reality of these 
women's lives; my admiration for the wom- 
en was no longer an abstraction. All this 
helped me in the making of my film. At 
times when the money had run out and I 
was desperate, I thought of the women and 
men who had lived through the arduous 

revolutionary process that led to the over- 
throw of the Somoza regime on July 19, 
1979, and my problems quickly diminished 
to a manageable size. 

I believe that as documentary filmmak- 
ers we should to some extent live through 
what the people we are filming go through. 
It tests our will and determination to de- 
vote a chunk of our own lives to document 
their reality, and also forms a basis of trust 
between us and the subjects. Obviously we 
are not they, and our lives are not theirs. 
But these attempts must be made to dis- 
cover our common humanity. 

©1983 Victoria Schultz 

Managua, June 18, 1979 

Scared. I don't think I've ever been as scared in my life as I 
have been today, at least not for a very long time. 

After a lot of disorganized organizing I'm off with Alan, Alain, 
and Alma to the liberated zone of the city to interview the Sandinist 
leaders. My co-worker Mikko finally showed up this morning; he 
had arranged for us to have a press conference with them this 
morning at 11, at a place called Puente Eden. The directions for 
finding it: Just ask around. 

I'm eager to go and see the blockades and. the muchachos. We 
drive only a short way around the hill where Somoza's bunker is, 
then leave the car by the road and start heading for one of the side 
streets. We ask for the Puente Eden. A man with a thin, drawn 
face, Mario Solorzano, offers to take us there with his six-year-old 
son Jesus, saying he was headed in that direction because he had 
relatives living there. We turn a corner and hear pretty heavy 
shooting nearby. We rush back and start contemplating whether 
the effort is worthwhile. Alan favors leaving; Alain and Alma want 
to go ahead, block by block if necessary. "You mean just the way 
you live, day by day," comments Alan. I remain neutral, somewhat 
siding with Alan , but wanting to go, though I started feeling scared . 

Alain carries our makeshift truce flag, a Hotel Intercontinental 
towel attached to a stick. We sprint from corner to corner, staying 
close to the walls of the mostly abandoned buildings. A lot of fallen 
branches on the streets, probably shot down during heavy bursts of 

We come to our first barricade, built out of adoquines, those 
cement bricks used to pave the country's highways. Ideal for con- 
structing barricades. The entire intersection is a maze of trenches, 
with little coves fenced by a board, providing a place to burrow 
into in case of an aerial attack. Ten young muchachos and mucha- 
chas, boys and girls, are guarding the place. A blondish young 
Sandinista (they are all young) takes a lot of time deciding if he'll 
give us permission to go to the Puente Eden or not. He looks at our 
credentials and is glad none of us is American. He argues about 
our safety and worries about who should accompany us — an armed 
or an unarmed person. That's when Mario identifies himself and 
says he'd be willing to lead us there. A very young guy is also as- 
signed to accompany us, at least some of the way. 

I see the first Sandinista with something resembling a uniform, 
namely an olive green jacket. Most of the people we meet at the 
dozen or so barricades we pass wear very little to identify them- 
selves as Sandinistas. I see a black beret with a piece of narrow red 
ribbon, or some kind of red insignia. Many young women, most of 
them armed with pistols. They are very friendly, as are the boys, 
once we tell them we're journalists and have permission to pass 
through. Nobody once searched us; they trusted us even though 
someone tells me the Guardia sends in women with bags contain- 
ing bombs. 

At each barricade we are told that the strip ahead might be ex- 
tremely dangerous. Franco-tiradores , sharpshooters. Sometimes 
bullets whizz very close by. A push-pull plane circles in the sky, 
mortaring the area. At one point Alan tells us a bomb is coming 
because he has seen it fall. All those details piling up in quick 
succession scare me very much — also the constant running from 
one block to the next, this whole idea that we must keep moving. 
Even crossing the street seems very dangerous. Everything is start- 
ing to seem very dangerous to me. Alma comments that it is sur- 
prising so many people do come out alive, considering the number 
of bullets flying in the air. Small comfort. 

We get to a Red Cross post. They warn us that the next stretch 

is going to be very dangerous. I am sweaty and tired, my heart is 
beating fast. I am ready to give up. I can't look around too much 
since I have to concentrate all my strength on just dealing with 
my fear. 

Alain mentions that fear lodges in different parts of the body. 
Suddenly I feel my left breast most vulnerable and hold my Guate- 
malan bag to it, thinking how odd because that's not the side where 
the heart lodges. But of course it is. I can't tell left from right. Fear 
starts making me shaky, and that seems dangerous. I try to breathe 
deep, but can't for more than a few seconds at a time. We move on 
and on. Finally we come to a kind of central gathering place. A 
slight rest. I think I won't be able to continue any further. A young 
woman in olive green uniform and black beret is scanning the sky 
to see what a push-pull bomber is doing. "No, it's too high to 
bomb us right now," she says. "When it returns to where we are it 
will have run out of bombs," she assures us. 

It seems we are waiting for something. Alma calms me by tell- 
ing me that the more nervous I become the more dangerous it will 
be because I won't be able to think straight or act clearly. She is 
right. I feel better. Surprise, surprise, Margarita shows up! She is 
in charge of taking us to the leaders. I feel relieved that there's 
someone I know, though it is no protection against the bullets. We 
follow her, and for some unexplainable reason stop at a barricade. 
A few muchachos are around. I talk with them about the basics, 
and also about fear. They mention their slogan, Patria libre o morir 
("Homeland free or die"), and explain that even the muchachos, 
the most irregular of the fighting forces, have had some political as 
well as military training. They're no longer afraid, or maybe they're 
just used to it. But going in cold, without the experience of military 
service or other battlegrounds, you react the way I do. The others 
are afraid too, but they don't express it as openly as I do. 

On the move again. Some people are still living in this area. An 
old man peeks out a window. A young woman is crocheting a yel- 
low tablecloth on the footsteps of her house. Other people keep 
their front doors open and are sitting inside in their rocking chairs 
as if nothing much out of the ordinary were going on outside. But 
long stretches of the streets are totally deserted. 

We run, stop, and peer around a corner. The muchacho guide 
told us, at one point, that if we heard a hissing sound we should 
throw ourselves on the ground and keep our mouths open so our 
eardrums won't burst. A mortar explodes very close to us. I am flat 
on my stomach in a split-second. 

Running, trying to look around, my heart pounding, feet get- 
ting tired, and fear making me pant and almost panic. I think I 
may die just because right now I am very happy, a happiness I feel 
I don't deserve. All kinds of little images going through my head. I 
admire the muchachos who have spent days and weeks working on 
this liberated zone. 

Finally we have arrived where the leaders are. I can't believe it. 
But yes, we are at the safehouse. Someone gives me a pill to take, 
seeing that I am very shaken. A woman gives me a glass of water 
and someone tells her to give me a few drops of valerian too. I 
remember as a child taking that bitter-tasting drug for my nervous 
upset stomach. She rummages through her first aid kit, a flowered 
picnic bag, but she doesn't have any. 

The press conference. We sit on metal beds without mattresses. 
After a while the pill starts working and I'm in a good mood. Three 
people introduce themselves. I recognize one man from pictures. 
He has a clean look about him, a neat moustache and light tan 
army jacket; he holds an Uzi, no it must be a Gallil. Next to me is a 


In the safe house. From left, to right: Carlos Nunez, member of the nine-person National Directorate of the FSLN and member of the FSLN's Political 
Commission: Moises Hassan, former Minister of Transportation: Victoria Schultz; and Joaquin Cuadra, Chief of Staff of the Sandinist Army. Photo by 
Victoria Schultz. 

youngish man with bright eyes and curly short hair, and a pistol 
lying next to him. Then I see Moises Hassan, sitting with legs 
crossed on the floor. He looks grubby with his untrimmed beard 
and thick glasses, but cheerful. Colorful swirls pattern his blue shirt. 

I have a hard time focusing on what they're talking about. First 
come rounds of rhetoric, the definition of the structures of the 
struggle. Then we're told about this liberated zone and how hard 
the work was that went into building it. They are very proud of this 
liberated zone. It is vast, not quite half of Managua, maybe one- 
fourth, and what used to be a very densely populated area. The 
zone is concrete proof of the insurrection and the people's partici- 
pation in it. They talk about the Somoza regime's atrocities — facts 
we already know well. 

I look at the house and try to focus on observing things to calm 
my fear and anxiety about the return trip ahead of us. Hassan, who 
is now a member of the Sandinist junta, says the leadership moves 
from house to house; this is their base for only a very brief moment. 
It is a small one-room house, 15 x 15. Seems newly built from the 
inside, or at least reinforced. From the outside it doesn't differ 
much from the modest wooden houses in the area. All around is a 
four-foot high wall made of thick cinder blocks; above that a pan- 
eling of thick slabs of wood looks very fresh. A few chairs, beds; 
the windows are opaque glass. On one wall a framed picture of a 
cherub's face against a star-studded pink background. Another 
picture, some remote cityscape, Paris perhaps. A baby's cot. Sev- 
eral kids running around. Hassan says they belong to the people 
who live in the house. He shows me the bomb shelter they've dug in 
the backyard, some ten feet deep, covered with boards and a layer 
of cinder blocks. A little girl is sitting on a mattress at the bottom 
of the shelter. I tell Hassan all this reminds me of the war in Fin- 
land when Helsinki was being bombed. I remember the night sky 
lighting up from the flares. 

They all smoke cigarettes constantly, except for Hassan. A 
young woman guards the door. She cannot yet be 20. She has a 
pistol next to her on the floor. Smiles are returned, the atmosphere 
is very relaxed, though throughout the hour and a half we spend in 
the house we constantly hear the sounds of shooting, mortars ex- 
ploding, and push-pull planes circling above us. 

We talk about the provisional government which has just been 
formed. They sound basically like Social Democrats. They feel 
everyone should participate in the transitional phase of reconstruc- 
tion, even the bourgeoisie. I ask what the role of the Guerra Popu- 
lar Prolongara and the Insurrectionistas will be.* Hassan is quick 
to point out that they'll have to wait for the elections. If the people 
want them, then that's how it will be, he says. 

We cover a lot of ground. After an hour we take a break to take 
pictures. I, too, pose with the three, smiling so none of my fear 


should show. I think I'd like to stay; it's comfortable, and I would 
not have to face the mad dash to get back to the world with their 
messages. They indeed invite us to stay. Alan says he's sorry he 
can't stay since there's no telex or telephone. Alma makes a crack 
about Alan needing his well-ironed clothes and creature comforts. 
Alain is game, though he's been as afraid as me. 

Although we're all set to go, to avoid the heavy shooting that 
starts after lunch, we're told there will be another little meeting. 
Two guys arrive. One is a very young man, big and dark-skinned, 
dressed in full olive uniform. He cradles an Uzi in his arms and 
tries to find a way of holding it so he won't be impolitely pointing it 
at us. At his waist he has tucked a pistol. The other one is Joaquin. 
He sits across from me, a slight man with a small-featured face. He 
has two deep furrows in his forehead. His greenish eyes seem dis- 
tant; he is somewhere else. 

The two men talk mostly about the military aspects of what's 
been happening. The darker man details the facts and figures. 
Joaquin talks about other things. He is optimistic, but his face tells 
another story. It is full of pain and profound sadness. I'd like to 
kiss him and hug him. What's the drug they've given me anyhow? 
I feel good about meeting the leadership and seeing that they are 
people who seem to have their shit together. I feel these two are 
pointing out that the struggle can't be won overnight. Are they 
then part of the other factions, the GPP and the Insurrectionistas'' 
Despite all the talk of unity, I get the feeling it isn't terribly solid. 

It's finally time to go — 1:30, time for the shooting to begin 
again. Many details I don't understand in Spanish, some of the 
directions and such. My survival instinct, however, makes me 
understand perfectly all the signs and even rapid phrases having 
to do with potential dangers. I give Hassan and Jose Antonio the 
message about the airport being pretty lightly guarded, ammuni- 
tions and arms having arrived by land via Honduras, and two 
planeloads of military stuff. They appreciate the information and 
say we should denounce this flow of arms to Somoza. I would like 
to ask them how they cope with fear. I don't. I leave them a pack of 
cigarettes, Rubios. They laugh and say it has become the brand of 
the war. I don't quite understand why. I feel silly asking them if I 
can come back to the liberated zone to talk with the women fight- 
ers. I admit to them that I don't know how I'd make it, because 
already this time I have been very very scared. 

At the outset, the trek back isn't quite as bad as before. I'm 

*The three factions of the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN) dur- 
ing the 1979 insurrection were the GPP, or Prolonged Popular War, which 
favored a long struggle based in the rural areas; the Insurrectionistas, who 
believed the time was ripe for an immediate insurrection; and the Proletari- 
an Tendency, which concentrated on organizing the masses in the cities. 

tired, I run out of breath and want to pause often. Now I know 
more or less where we're heading. I have no sense of the distances. 
We see a long line of people waiting for the food rations of the day. 
We hear the sound of airplanes. Someone tells the people in line to 
move close to the houses, into the shade of trees. They are still 
living here, and they keep their doors open. It seems weird to be 
jogging in this doubled-up fashion, panting and afraid, and then 
to catch glimpses of the calm interiors of people's houses. The 
usual neat, simple interiors, tile floors and rattan furniture. Wom- 
en, children, and old men look out their windows at the insurrec- 
tion passing by. 

Now we move faster than before because the muchachos at the 
barricades know us and let us through with no trouble. At many 
posts it is lunchtime. Plates of rice and beans. At the Puente Leon 
we take a different road from the one we came. We have to cross a 
wide open stretch of grassy land. Alma runs sort of zigzag. I just 
run. We're along the highway now, with very few people around. 
For blocks, only abandoned houses and angry dogs — the least 
thing to be afraid of here. I'm actually too exhausted to even think 
about fear anymore. I'm too tired to bend my head low. Several 
times we hear fire very close by. At one barricade there's some 
hassle, they don't want us to go on. We're told they can't guarantee 
our safety beyond this point. The guide Mario and his little boy 
Jesus are still with us. Mario says he'll take us out. 

At the next barricade young militias sit and eat lunch in the 
shade of a tree. They are all very skinny. One wears a wide- 
brimmed hat with the rim turned up and FSLN in black letters on 
it. To see a human face shining fills me with joy. I say hello, they 
say adios. Yes, a dios, to God, that's the appropriate greeting in a 
time and place such as this. 

On our own again, we take out a Hotel Intercontinental towel. 
Mario holds it in one hand and holds his little boy's hand with the 
other. We run in a kind of no-man's land. A Sandinist medic 
comes over and informs us that the road ahead is bad. Mario says 
he knows a roundabout way of getting there by crossing a narrow 
bridge to get to the other side of the road. 

I am the first one to cross. I jump over a chasm to get to the 
bridge because a large part of it is missing. I 
feel like a moving target for a sniper. I run for 
the houses, to find shelter in their shade. The 
medic and a Sandinist fighter argue which way ■ 
to go. The barrio is totally deserted, except for 
a man playing baseball alone in a yard, throw- 
ing or, rather, batting the ball against the wall. 
Thump, thump, thump, the only sound here be- 
sides the gunfire in the distance and the sound 
of the airplanes in the sky. 

After a while we meet three women going in : , 

the same direction we are. I'm beginning to feel much safer — we 
have made it alive. We pass a movie theater, the Select. I wonder 
when a movie was last shown there. Approaching an intersection 
we stop short. Across the street we see a Sandinist guerrilla. We 
holler to him, and he waves for us to cross the street. As we do we 
see flimsy barricades made of tree branches on both sides. Behind 
one, quite a few people. I hope they're Sandinistas and won't shoot. 
We cross safely. 

Further on, we come to a fence and behind it a barracks-like 
building. Little Jesus tells me it is his school. We must be close to 
the car. At least now we're out of the zone. My mouth is dry, I feel 
an intense heat radiating from me. I ask Alma if we should give 
Mario some money and I wonder why he took us. He never even 
tried to visit the relatives he said he wanted to see. Alma says he is 
either a real patriot or an oreja, a spy. She has several dollars to 
give him. I want to give him 100 pesos. Alain also wants to con- 

Finally I spot the three colored circles on the wall of the house 
where we left the car. I am ready to cry, grateful we have made it. I 
take a picture of Jesus and his father. We leave them the Inter- 
continental flag. Alan doesn't make a contribution. 

Alma says we should cool down before going to the hotel. I 
don't feel like walking alone in the streets so Alan drives me back 
to the Estrella. A lot of people are sitting in the lobby. They see 
that something has happened to me. Lenora asks if I've been 
beaten. No, I say, I've just been running a little bit. Richard has 
left for Rivas, leaving a note saying he'll probably stay all night. I 
need him to hold me in his arms. I drink glasses of water, take two 
Valiums, and fall asleep. 

But I have to start working on the material we risked so much 
to get. It calls for all the strength I have to concentrate on writing. 
I look at my red face in the mirror. The terror of the experience. 
The worst part of it was not knowing where we were going and 
where the lines of fire were. I didn't know who was shooting whom 
and from what direction to expect the bullets. They were every- 
where. I had to trust those who led us. And I did trust them— but 
not myself. The situation was so new. 

Richard arrives just before curfew. He had been close to Rivas, 
but had turned around at the post where the old Guardia had 
helped me and Mikko get to Rivas last week. A post where the 
soldiers played cards and lay sleeping in hammocks in the noonday 
heat with chickens pacing around. A scene to be filmed, a scene 
that couldn't be reproduced. 

I'm exhausted, shaken. Revolution is a hell of a thing. Only a 
long process can make people face what I faced today. I saw every- 
thing as simply horrible and frightening. The young woman peer- 
ing into the sky and making rational calculations about the flight 
patterns of the bombers exists in a different world from me. 

Mario with his six-year-old son Jesus. Photo by Victoria Schultz. 

My friends apologize before they turn MTV on to relax. Conversation ceases. End- 
to-end rock videos, interspersed with advertisements of the same image-pumping 
character. Superstardom in your own lounge-room (or someone else's if you can't 
afford or still can't get cable TV). Who can resist such escapist fantasy? It is that 
sense of fascination . . . 

Rock video is the new darling of the 
technological "revolution." It has a bright 
future, so bright that it could well make 
stereo systems obsolete within the next few 
years. All the signs are there: Rock groups 
are aiming for the simultaneous release of 
albums and rock clips, video jukeboxes are 
poised ready to fill the clubs, and the price 
of TV /stereo hook-ups is almost within 
reach of the average rock consumer. 

The majority of rock videos (or "pro- 
mos") are developed and given away by 
record companies to boost record sales. 
They come in two different styles. One is 
straightforward, basically a documenta- 
tion of a song, performed either on stage or 
in a studio. Effects are limited to dry ice 
and flashing lights. The other is a three- to 
five-minute "narrative," a mini-Hollywood 
that follows the storyline of the song. The 
first narrative promo, produced in 1977 by 
the Warner/Electric/Atlantic "coalition," 
set the scene for what was to come. "To- 
night's the Night" featured Rod Stewart's 
seduction of a blonde bombshell by a fire- 
place. She remains the faceless mystery 
woman throughout the tape, existing for 
the viewer only as a froth of tiny ribbons, 
frills, and pieces of bare flesh. 

Unlike albums, commercial promos, as 
giveaways, are still not products in their 
own right. They remain advertisements — 
and thus are spared the identity problems 
of rock music, which has always teetered 
between being an "art" and a "commercial 
product." The producers who create pro- 
mos determine a visual style and a person- 
ality that will sell the song. Their policy of 
"hits only" has evened out the diversity 
that exists in rock music. Whatever the 
setting of the narrative, from the jungles of 
Sri Lanka and oceangoing yachts in Rio, to 
the grimy urban wastes of London — the 
theme is tiringly similar: romance. Rock 
video's obsession with True Love, which 
idealizes sex roles defining men as active 
and women as passive, is reintroducing 
values from the '50s. 

The conservatism of rock video is not 
the fault of the fusion itself, but rather of 
the corporate control over its production 

and distribution. When the stirrings of 
rock video began, things were very differ- 
ent. The punk/new wave movement was 
radicalizing rock music in such a way that 
a significant number of women were play- 
ing rock instruments for the first time. In 
1975, two women — Pat Ivers and Emily 
Armstrong — started a New York-based 
production company called Advanced Tel- 
evision. For five years, they documented 
the performances of many of the bands 
that were shaping the new rock movement 
in the U.S. Said Ivers: 

The early days of rock video coincided 
with a time when people in music were 
trying to distance themselves from their 
[traditional sex] roles. Even Richard 
Hell was conscious of it. It made it 
much easier for us to work. No one 
would have dared come up to me and 
say, "Hey, li'l girl, what you doin with 
that big old camera?" 

Rock clubs were also the sites of an experi- 
mental approach to rock video. At Hurrah 
and Danceteria in New York, a DJ and a 
video-jockey would often work together, 
mixing sound and image. As Maureen 
Nappi, ex-VJ from Hurrah and Pepper- 
mint Lounge, described it: 

The connections would sometimes be 
haphazard; other times we would try to 
make the music and image relate in 
some thematic way — springing twists 
on the audience in the hope of involv- 
ing them in the long wait to hear the 
headlining band play at 2 a.m. Clubs 
can be so boring. . . . 
Nappi would intercut all kinds of material 
— "found footage" (Eisenstein's films, 
documentation of JFK's assassination), 
synthesized and animated images, and 
taped performances of live bands. 

In the clubs and basements, a new art 
movement was created, but its aesthetic 
discoveries were rapidly co-opted by record 
company interests to develop their new 
promotional tool. Exactly how innovative 
these early artists were is only becoming 
apparent in retrospect — as more and more 
of their ideas and techniques are seen on 

the corporate rock video screen. 

Video artists have continued to produce 
tapes independently, often working with 
bands with whom they share aesthetic and 
conceptual concerns. Most independent 
products, however, have been eclipsed by 
record company promos. Even if an inde- 
pendent tape is of "commercial quality" 
(difficult when the standards are set by 
record industry promo budgets of $35,000 
to $100,000), it rarely receives much ex- 
posure because of the limited and carefully 
controlled distribution. 

Rock videos are shown in clubs, a few 
galleries, and on cable TV. The most influ- 
ential outlet is the cable station Music Tel- 
evision (MTV), which has gathered 12 mil- 
lion subscribers throughout the U.S. since 
it was set up in August 1981. MTV is a 
joint investment of Warner Communica- 
tions and American Express — the Warner/ 
Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, 
to be precise. The initial investment was 
$20 million (although confirming this 
amount was difficult). 

MTV's national broadcast features 
continuous promos, liberally sprinkled 
with advertisements and self-promotion, 
including "stars" such as Paul MacCartney 
and Boy George speaking out in support of 
the station. It has a weekly playlist of about 
50 videotapes, chosen from a library that 
currently holds 1,000 tapes. Its selection 
is racist and conservative; it virtually re- 
fuses to show tapes by Black and independ- 
ent artists, giving exclusive showing to the 
advertising promos of the major record 
labels. ' The station's intended purpose is 
to "break" bands, escalating them to num- 
ber 1 on the charts. It is successful — both 
the Stray Cats and Musical Youth received 
little attention until their promos were 
played on MTV. More and more tapes are 
now being produced that adhere to MTV's 
production styles, and as a virtual monop- 
oly, it has clearly defined the parameters of 
rock video as a medium. 

MTV programs according to demo- 
graphics — aiming to satisfy the tastes of 
white mid-America. Its prime target is the 
family, and as MTV spokesman Roy Tray- 

©1983 Annie Goldson 

kin said, especially those with a "three- 
minute attention span." Defenders of MTV 
maintain that it acts as a visual radio, pro- 
viding a mere backdrop to normal house- 
hold activities. Even a vague understand- 
ing, however, of the different meanings of 
television and radio in Western culture in- 
validates this defense. For those who have 
been exposed to alternative images — of 
rock culture and of sex-role stereotyping — 
the power of MTV can at least be tem- 
pered. But for the huge suburban following 
of this cable station, exposure to the racist 
and sexist fantasies is undiluted. 

Rock video will also go beyond the U.S. 
suburbs. The transmission of American 
(mass) culture has always been most suc- 
cessfully carried out by Hollywood, TV, 
and popular music, and by combining as- 
pects of all three, rock video has a potential 
influence that is quite staggering. It will be 
able to prescribe its romantic formula — an 
affirmation of the nuclear family, that 
basic unit of consumer culture — to many 
countries, including the Third World and 
the Eastern bloc. 

Preoccupation with romance and sex- 
ism is hardly new — such fantasies have 
been the basis of rock culture, passed down 
to three generations of adolescents, through 
Elvis, the Beatles, psychedelia, and punk. 
How rock video compounds their impact, 
by its narrow commercial interests and its 
use of the female image, has to be under- 
stood in the context of broader rock culture. 
More than any form of popular media, 
rock's primary message is about sex. 
Threatening as this has always been to 
parents, conjuring up fears of teenage sex- 
and-drug orgies, in reality rock has rein- 
forced the traditional ordering of the sexes. 
Women have been cast as "dumb chicks," 
groupies, and obliging wives/girlfriends, 
while ironically providing the "inspiration" 
for most rock lyrics. In their only tolerated 
role, as singers, women have been con- 
strained by the demand that they conform 
to the image of the day, and their presenta- 
tion of sexuality, although encouraged to 
be "provocative," has remained passive. 

There have been a few brave exceptions 
to this rule of the "brotherhood." In the 
early '60s, Ann "Honey" Lantree played 

drums with the British band Honey and 
the Honeycombs, alongside her brother. 
As a session musician, Carol Kaye received 
less acclaim, but she played guitar and 
bass in some of the top U.S. line-ups. 
Others include Genya Ravan of Goldy and 
the Gingerbreads, Megan Davies of the 
Applejacks, and Terry Garthwaite and 
Toni Brown, instrumentalists with Joy of 

The first women, however, to assume 
creative control over widely popular bands 
came out of the psychedelic movement of 
the late '60s. Janis Joplin and Grace Slick 
possessed tremendous talent and power, 
Joplin reaching almost mythological status 
in the counterculture. But they, too, were 
forced to face the demands of the image. 
Although Joplin tried, she could never 
quite break free from her audience's ex- 
pectations. As Ellen Willis, New York fem- 
inist writer and critic, describes: "Joplin's 
revolt against conventional femininity was 
brave and imaginative but it also dovetailed 
with the stereotype — the ballsy one-of-the- 
guys chick, who is a needy cream-puff 
underneath — cherished by her legions of 
hip male fans." 2 

More women were playing in bands by 
the early '70s — Fanny, Suzi Soul and the 
Pleasure Seekers (Suzi Quatro), Ramatan, 
and Bertha among them. Times were more 
liberal — the counterculture had at least 
freed women from the restraints of '50s 
femininity. But the "sexual equality" of 
this period was a guise. Rock songs were 
still mostly about love; men remained the 
sexual consumers, women the objects to be 
consumed. It took another musical move- 
ment — punk — along with the example of 
Patti Smith to inspire an entire wave of 
women rock artists and instrumentalists, 
who demanded the stage. 

The punk movement 3 sprang up partly 
as an anti-consumerist revolt against sexual 
stereotypes in both the U.S. and the U.K. 
Its message — a rejection of romance as 
constructed in Western industrialized soci- 
ety — released women from their peripheral 
position as romantic (sex) objects within 
rock culture. For the first time it became 
conceivable that rock could be against 

Yet many of the new women perform- 
ers did not identify as feminists. Although 
by raising the expectations of women in 
every field, including rock, feminism had 
indirectly encouraged the presence of the 
women rock artists, the worlds of feminism 
and rock culture had diverged considerably 
by this time. The women's movement, in 
rejecting the sexual double-standard of the 
"sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" generation, 
had given rock music, the manifestation of 
male sexuality, the boot as well. By the 
time the punk movement arrived, many 
feminists had lost interest in rock, concen- 
trating instead on developing their own 
particular sound from the influences of 
protest, country, blues, and jazz. 

The punk women may not have been 
"feminists," but they were often strongly 
anti-sexist. Not only did their presence on 
stage contradict the passive stereotype of 
women in rock, but so did their expressed 
politic. In the U.S. Patti Smith, artist/poet/ 
minimalist, was developing an androgy- 
nous image that the mainstream media 
found difficult to take. She gained com- 
mercial attention with hits like "Gloria," 
while still producing subversive songs such 
as "Rock 'n Roll Nigger." Tina Weymouth, 
bassist with the influential band Talking 
Heads, also chose androgyny, tending to 
downplay her image completely. By con- 
trast, Debbie Harry of Blondie was a self- 
conscious sex siren, sliding back and forth 
from irony to being a real sex-kitten. Wey- 
mouth is one of the few women from that 
period who has managed to produce a com- 
mercially successful solo album (and rock 
video) without compromising her style. Yet 
Harry soon lost her subversive edge — to 
emblazon the cover of Playboy and, more 
recently, to star in the movie Videodrome. 

The British punk movement fused the 
minimalist sounds of Patti Smith and her 
contemporaries with Reggae and Northern 
soul. Punk's arrival in the U.K. was an un- 
leashing — angrier and more directly polit- 
ical than its U.S. counterpart. One of its 
avowed intentions was to overthrow the 
record industry, and for a while this seemed 
possible. Playing an important part in the 
energy of the movement were the English 
"girl-punks," often still in their teens. They 

Cartoon by Lynda Barry, a painter and cartoonist who currently lives in France. 

used irony and outrageousness to subvert 
the traditional images of femininity. Cover- 
ing themselves with sex-shop parapher- 
nalia and wearing torn fish-nets, they 
flaunted the commercialization of sexuali- 
ty. Their lyrics parodied sex roles: 

I'm so happy 

You 're so nice 

Kiss kiss kiss 

Fun fun life 

Oh oh oh 

Sweet love and romance 

[The Slits] 

/ could stay home and play houses 
Love my man and press his trousers 
It would be so easy. . . 

[The Bodysnatchers] 

/ thought I was a woman, 

thought you were a man 

but I was Tinkerbelle 

and you were Peter Pan 

[Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex] 

Punk could not last. For those unin- 
volved in rock culture, the punk movement 
was seen as pointlessly nihilistic, violent 
and ugly. The increasing exploitation by 
the mass media (which loved the mini- 
skirts and ripped stockings) sexualized the 
anti-romantic meaning of punk costume, 
and the rawness of the sound obscured its 
political thrust to all except the initiated. 
Especially in the U.S., punk was rapidly 
assimilated into fashion, while in England 
various neo-fascist and violent gangs (Nazi 
punks) assumed the distinctive image — a 
blow for a movement that had developed 
as a fusion of Black and white influences. 

The dispersion of punk was largely the 
responsibility of the record industry. Punk's 
musical innovation had developed outside 
the corporate domain, through perfor- 
mance and some independent distribution. 
When its ideas proved sufficiently popular 
to be lucrative, the industry used its finan- 
cial clout to take them over and turn them 
into "safe" products. For the women in- 
volved, their radical image was turned into 
just another glamorous style. Although 
their presence on stage had brought up 
new questions about convention and sexu- 
ality, in the end they could not survive un- 
less they were "beautiful." Some, such as 
Patti Smith, Poly Styrene, and Lora Logic 
(sax player with X-Ray Spex), stopped per- 
forming. Those who continued in the spirit 
of punk were forced into art rock rather 
than commercial rock circles — and their 
visibility decreased. They were further 
eclipsed by the "liberated" women — those 
musicians who conformed to the demands 
of the record industry. 

Accelerating the commercialization of 
punk was rock video — the ideal medium 
for defusing any threat. Its success lay in 
its immediacy: Now the rock consumer 
could "see" the superstars (always a strong 
urge), as well as hear them. Placed in the 
consumerist spirit of rock culture, these 
images were highly marketable — every last 
kiss-curl and mohawk could be mimicked 
and sold. This commercialization dispersed 

the original meaning of punk (rebellion), 
spreading it through mainstream culture. 
By the time the bondage costumes of the 
punk women reached the windows of 
Bloomingdale's (via exposure on MTV) as 
"punkette" fashion, they were just another 
"safe" product. The subversive meaning, 
the anger and the irony, had been dis- 
placed by another — being cute. 

Although the commercialization of 
punk affected both male and female art- 
ists, rock video left the new women per- 
formers particularly vulnerable. Rock 
video has many of the same ingredients of 
Hollywood — heroes, heroines, and love — 
and a critique of Hollywood developed by 
feminist film theorists can be adapted for 
an analysis of rock video. Using psycho- 
analytic theory, this critique describes how 
women's images are constructed by Holly- 
wood to satisfy certain "needs" in an audi- 
ence — needs that arise during the forma- 
tion of desire in the human unconscious. 
Women are positioned outside "language" 
and any real expression of their subjectivity 
is denied due to their "lack" of the phallus, 
and therefore of power and authority. This 
notion of women as "lacking" provokes 
fear of castration in the hero, and in the 
flip-side response, fascination or "love." 
Women as beautiful objects are used as 
phallic substitutes; they have no real im- 
portance in themselves. 

An infatuation with the '50s and early 
'60s followed the demise of punk. The new 
interest in romance and the use of "retro" 
style are especially evident in rock video. 
Yet there is a difference: Many of the 
"stars" in the tapes display a certain self- 
consciousness, as if they remained aware 
of the alternative ideologies they grew up 
with (such as the counterculture, femi- 
nism, and punk). Neither parody nor irony, 
this self-consciousness appears to be used 
to justify the choice to extol the "old val- 
ues," a choice that becomes part of a back- 
lash against radical elements in this cul- 
ture. Along with the New Right, rock has 
begun to wax sentimental about the past, 
idealizing marriage and the family, as if 
to suggest that such traditional "solutions" 
will clear up contemporary problems of a 
far more complex nature. 

Whether the self-consciousness is used 
to justify the artist's choice or not, the dis- 
play of romance is being appropriated by 
youth culture today, as it was by the teen- 
agers of the '50s. Romance describes love 
and marriage in a way that means different 
things to boys and girls. For boys, the cock- 
rockers, from Elvis to Adam Ant, become 
a confirmation of their dominance and 
power. For girls, however, these same 
superstars become symbols of the Boy Next 
Door, the necessary "goal" to fulfill their 
life's work — marriage. 

The new preoccupation with romance 
is clearly evident in a brief survey of rock 
video. Of the MTV clips sampled, 80% 
were love songs and 84% performed by all- 
male bands. The "mixed" bands were all 
comprised of one woman and three or four 

men, and in most of these cases the women 
were the lead vocalists. In the narrative 
videos, women were generally peripheral, 
glimpsed at intervals through the song. 
Sometimes they were represented only as 
body parts (lips, etc.). 

The most popular female stereotype is 
the "cold bitch — the beautiful woman re- 
jecting or ignoring the superstar's plea. 
One promo showed a woman preparing to 
go on a date. As she dresses and puts on 
her makeup, she has to keep stepping 
around the male singer, who insists on 
cluttering up her bedroom. Although he is 
singing about her, neither of them ac- 
knowledges the other — he sings to the 
camera, she ignores him completely. Final- 
ly, she finishes dressing and walks out of 
the house. The singer is there to open her 
car door and she slides in, leaving him 

In addition to the "cold bitch," women 
are depicted as "adoring," as "man-eating 
vamps," and as "victims." Women are also 
used less specifically, dotted around as 
decoration, eating (grapes and figs), sleep- 
ing, dressing and undressing. 

Brides and weddings figure in a num- 
ber of the rock videos. "Nice Day for a 
White Wedding" is a chronicle of disillu- 
sionment by Billy Idol, one of the scene's 
most voguish stars. His use of marriage as 
a solution to his unhappiness is not un- 
usual (when all else fails, at least your wife 
will look after you). The bridal scene is 
held in a cemetery, with smoky-eyed brides- 
maids in black offsetting the beautiful 
bride, decked out in white frills. During 
the ceremony Idol forces the ring onto the 
finger of the bride, making it bleed. As 
with the eating of figs and grapes, this 
clumsy piece of symbolism needs little ex- 

"El Salvador" by Garland Jeffries also 
"documents" a bridal ceremony and in a 
subsequent scene shows Jeffries chasing 
his wife around the kitchen as she tries to 
prepare dinner. Intercut into both scenes 
are shots of wide-eyed children. If, in some 
way, these children are meant to refer to 
the war that is destroying their country, 
the tape is hardly making a political state- 
ment. It seems more likely that Jeffries and 
MTV have used the visibility of the war for 
their mutual commercial benefit. 

Whether women are used as adjuncts 
to provide romantic interest, or whether 
they themselves become the "stars," their 
visual treatment varies little. Video tech- 
nology lends itself to "romantic" imagery; 
the tapes are full of slow-motion shots — 
women with long hair blowing around 
them, women rising in a cascade of silk 
and ribbon from a bed, women appearing 
in a pink cloud puff cornerscreen. Even 
the women who manage to escape the 
cute-as-pie treatment stay well within the 
bounds of "femininity." 

In general, the position of women in 
rock video is no different from what it has 
been traditionally in rock— they are toler- 
ated as visual sex symbols to front an all- 

male band. But some have an added so- 
phistication. MTV, careful to stay in tune 
with market demands, has responded to 
the "woman question" by providing an im- 
age of the "new, liberated woman." The 
women performers are not only beautiful 
(hence still gratifying as images to be con- 
sumed), "liberated" (sexually assertive in 
their approach to men), but also capable 
(having a woman play an instrument coun- 
ters the criticism that they are being used 
purely for decoration). Not that these char- 
acteristics are negative in themselves, but 
they are frequently used to mask the real 
oppression and violence that women face. 

"I Know What Boys Like," a hit by the 
Waitresses, sung by a woman and written 
by a man, typifies the old cliche that it is 
"women that really call the shots." The 
song acknowledges that women are in a 
position of relative powerlessness, yet it 
implies a bemused acceptance, even an en- 
joyment of this position. This more know- 
ing woman Imay appear more exciting 
than her passive precursor, but in her ac- 
ceptance of the existing power structure, 
she is still containable, affirming rather 
than threatening established sex roles. 
Such images recuperate the impact of fem- 
inism, and the beautiful "liberated" wom- 
an becomes an impossible ideal. 

The "heavy-metal" stereotype is a vari- 
ation of the "new, liberated woman" with 
the added dimension of "tough-girl naugh- 
tiness." There seems to be more room for 
female expression in this stereotype (for 
example, in Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" 
and "I Love Rock and Roll"). But as 
"leather girls" their sexual appeal seems 
constructed according to male expectations 
— a sexy toughness, turned cute (Joan Jett's 
"Crimson and Clover"). 

In the tapes I looked at, only Grace 
Slick from Jefferson Starship and Chrissie 
Hynde from the Pretenders appeared to 

Lovt OBTecTS 




Graphic by Tom Zummer and Annie Goldson. 

have creative control over their images. In- 
terestingly, their tapes were two of the five 
that did not focus on "love" as a major 
theme. Slick and Hynde came out of dif- 
ferent musical eras — the psychedelic and 
punk movements respectively. Both have, 
to some degree, retained the concerns of 
those periods in rock, although any real 
radical expression has been toned down 
and cleaned up. Neither woman has the 
creative influence in shaping rock she once 

My point is not to criticize rock culture 
in itself, but rather its direction, showing 
how rock video, in undermining the power 
of recent rock movements, has driven 
women's visible, powerful presence out of 
rock culture. Serious critiques of rock are 
only just emerging. 4 There has been a gen- 
eral refusal to acknowledge rock on the 
part of both traditional academics and 
feminists — a surprising omission, consid- 
ering its overwhelming importance in de- 
veloping sexuality within Western culture. 
But, even apart from this influence, rock 
should command our attention. 

Rock has a potentially subversive pow- 
er, an energy and enthusiasm that have at 
certain times crossed the barriers of race, 
class, and sex, challenging the authority 
and control of the record industry and 

other power structures. For women, too, 
rock can provide a source of sexual expres- 
sion and power, which can be used to wrest 
the female image away from being defined 
in purely male terms. Although penetrat- 
ing the inner male circle of rock has not 
been easy, women musicians and video art- 
ists have used rock's sexual language to 
explore feminist concerns. Ivers and Arm- 
strong, in collaboration with Robin Schaz- 
enbach, produced a tape called "Girl Porn: 
Boys' Backs," a short satirical piece that 
shows 18 men stripping for the camera. 
They are currently working on an installa- 
tion piece about "seduction." Nappi, too, 
has used her image-processed and animat- 
ed tapes to "reclaim the female body back 
from voyeurism." 

Ironically, it is this sexual characteristic 
of rock culture that many feminists have 
rejected. Despite widespread acknowledg- 
ment that "sexual freedom" is a goal for 
women, how to achieve it has led to consid- 
erable conflict. 5 The arguments that lie at 
the root of this current conflict about sexu- 
ality also explain the attitude many femi- 
nists hold toward rock music. For those 
who reject sexual liberalism, suggesting 
that all male sexuality is an uncontrollable 
and constant source of violence, to be 
curbed at all cost, rock can hold little in- 

Graphic by Sherry Millner, a filmmaker living and working in San Diego. Her two latest films concern 

shoplifting and white-collar (computer) crime. 


terest. But to an opposing group, which 
sees finding positive expressions of sexuali- 
ty for women as a way of challenging the 
current imbalance of power between men 
and women, rock holds possibilities. Any 
attempt to censor and control male sexuali- 
ty, they believe, will further inhibit female 
sexual freedom? They argue, too, that sex- 
uality is no more "naturally" aggressive 
and violent than female sexuality is "natu- 
rally" gentle and passive. Although this 
view may correspond with the experience 
of many people, to see these characteristics 
as inherent is to reinforce traditional no- 
tions of female passivity. 

Within the framework of the second 
argument, rock can be described as a 
medium that is not "naturally" male, but 
one that can provide women with a rare 
opportunity for finding sexual expression. 
Not that this is easy — but feminist disap- 
proval of rock can only act as a further 
prohibition against participation. I do not 
mean that every woman should grab for the 
nearest bass guitar or start producing rock 
videos. The products, and the industry that 
controls them, have serious flaws. But to 
dismiss rock altogether is to cut out possi- 
bilities of expression for women, and to 
deny them one way of changing sexual atti- 
tudes. And as rock culture, led by rock 
video, takes a conservative turn, it becomes 
more essential than ever for independent 
women artists and musicians to force the 
market to expand to include alternative 
images to those that are currently flooding 
the TV screen. 

1. Initially even Diana Ross was banned from 
MTV, but now as criticism of its racism is in- 
creasing, MTV has conceded a little, airing 
those Black tapes that are acceptable to a white 

2. Ellen Willis, "Janis Joplin," in Beginning to 
See the Light (New York: Wideview Books, 

3. 1 have used the term "punk" in a somewhat 
blanket way to describe a movement that devel- 
oped into other movements such as "new wave" 
and "no wave." As I wish to concentrate on the 
position of women during this period, rather 
than analyze the musical variations within the 
genre, I use "punk" to refer to all the music that 
rejected the romantic notions that had previous- 
ly reigned in rock culture. 
4. See, for example, the excellent analysis by 
Simon Frith in Sound Effects (New York: Pan- 
theon, 1981). It is interesting that feminist film- 
makers and theorists have tended to use women 
punk musicians (or at least their lyrics) in work 
that has examined issues of identity and identi- 

5. 1 have drawn much of my analysis from Ellen 
Willis, "Towards a Female Liberation," Social 
Text, no. 6 (Fall 1982), pp. 3-15. 
6. They argue for a need to assure free and avail- 
able abortions and birth control (rather than 
emphasizing the control of male sexuality), as a 
way of allowing women to develop a positive 
sense of sexuality without fear of pregnancy. 

Annie Goldson is an ex-journalist from New 
Zealand now living in New York. She works in 
film, occasionally in video, and plays in a rock 

©1983 Sherry Millner 



> j 







* Top to bottom: At age 16 
in 1938; in 1941 with the 
Nicholas Brothers; in a pub- 
licity still. Right: From 
Dorothy Dandridge by Earl 


Little remains of the phenomenon of 
Dorothy Dandridge beyond a rare 8x10 
glossy or yellowed pages in vintage Ebony 
magazines, although her screen brilliance 
surfaces occasionally on late TV in Bright 
Road (1953) or Porgy and Bess (I960). Hol- 
lywood's first movie queen of color com- 
mitted suicide in 1965. Barbiturate over- 
dose and few explanations. She was 42. 

Dorothy Dandridge was a diva under 
glass: her beauty and travesty marketed to 
millions. Hollywood processed her through 
the miscegenation mold; her star quality 
was based on her fair skin. Dark enough to 
embody The Exotic, light enough to be 
Negro Object of Desire, her fate always 
hinged on the leading (Black or white) man 
— Harry Belafonte in Island in the Sun or 
Curt Jergens in Tamango, for instance. 
The few books on Blacks in film view her 
as The Tragic Mulatto. In Toms, Coons, 
Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks, author 
Donald Bogle states: 

Before her, Nina Mae McKinney had 
displayed uncontrolled raunchiness, 
Fredi Washington had symbolized in- 
tellectualized despair, and Lena Home 
had acquired a large following through 
her reserve and middle-class aloofness. 
On occasion, Dorothy Dandridge ex- 
hibited all the characteristics of her 
screen predecessors, but most impor- 
tant to her appeal was her fragility and 
her desperate determination to survive. 

Dandridge was surrounded with awe 
and voyeurism by the white media. She was 
the first Black on the cover of Life — as the 
leading lady in Carmen Jones. But Dan- 
dridge was often at odds with the Black 
press. Her screen image and romances with 

©1983 Michelle Parkerson 

white men (particularly an affair with di- 
rector Otto Preminger) made her contro- 
versial. She was deeply scarred by family 
relationships, love, and lovemaking, and 
she juggled both devastation and Holly- 
wood glamour. Her death made good myth. 

Beneath the packaging was a Black 
woman intensely committed to social 
change. At the height of her singing career 
in the 1950s, Dorothy Dandridge was 
among the first Black entertainers to break 
the color barrier at hotels and nightclubs. 
Scarce editions of her autobiography, 
Everything and Nothing, reveal Dan- 
dridge's political awareness and her relent- 
less fight for racial equality and civil rights. 

From a Black feminist perspective, the 
circumstances of Dorothy Dandridge's life 
are yet to be told. Born in Cleveland's 
Black ghetto in 1922, she grew up around 
women and show business. Her mother, 
comedienne Ruby Dandridge, reared Dor- 
othy and her older sister Vivien with the 
help of an "aunt" — a close family friend 
who doubled as pianist for their vaudeville 
act, "The Wonder Kids." Later, "The 
Dandridge Sisters" gained success on the 
Black theater circuit. 

Dorothy Dandridge's marriage in the 
1940s to dancer Harold Nicholas was brief 
and disillusioning. She gave birth to a 
daughter, Harolyn, who suffered severe 
brain damage. As a single parent, she be- 
gan a solo career that eventually led to 
stardom. In 1955 she was nominated for 
"Best Actress" for her role in the 20th 
Century-Fox production Carmen Jones: a 
first for a Black woman. A three-year con- 
tract with the studio followed — the first 
and most ambitious ever offered to a Black 
performer. In that contract, DarrylZanuck 

gave Dandridge billing above the film title, 
and she became the first international 
Black star in the history of film. 

I am just fully realizing the impact of 
Dandridge on my life. As a chubby, Black 
eight-year-old, "Movie Star" was synony- 
mous with Marilyn Monroe, but Dorothy 
Dandridge was my first serious crush. 
Some twenty years later, I have become an 
independent film- and videomaker, pro- 
ducing documentaries on jazz vocalist 
Betty Carter and a cappella activists "Sweet 
Honey in the Rock" — Black women who 
have clearly taken their talents and lives 
into their own hands. 

There is a correlation. The career of 
Dorothy Dandridge taught me that women 
must control the making of their images. 
On and off screen, Dandridge contended 
with victimization, at the cost of her life. 
As Blacks, as women, we must begin to 
master the medium that has killed us for 
so long. Exploitation, misrepresentation 
on screen, union discrimination, and limit- 
ed production opportunities in the larger 
industry are still struggles to be won. . .at 
least for the next generation of daughters. 

Michelle Parkerson, a poet and documentary 
filmmaker from Washington, D.C., has just 
published Waiting Rooms, her first book of 


Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mam- 
mies, and Bucks. New York: Viking Press, 

Dandridge, Dorothy & Earl Conrad. Everything 
and Nothing: The Dorothy Dandridge Trag- 
edy. New York: Abelard-Shulman, 1970. 

Mills, Earl. Dorothy Dandridge. Los Angeles: 
Holloway House, 1970. 


: £* 

:••"' • 


If iBf 

Born in' Flames is set in the future— ten years after a Social- 
Democratic cultural ''revolution" in America. The film is not tra- 
ditionally "science fiction" : x There is no attempt to create a futur- 
istic look because it is as much about today's world as it is about 
the future — posing the question of whether oppression against 
women will be eliminated under any kind of social system. 

The film opens during a period of disenchantment, when polit- 
ical ideals have been sacrificed to pragmatic realities. The Social- 
Democratic Party that women had supported has not fulfilled its 
promises. The women in the film are not anti- socialist. In fact, 
they see themselves as the true socialists, whose hopes for an egali- 
tarian society have been destroyed. They are opposed to the bu- 
reaucracy of the traditional Left, whose governing structure inevi- 
tably reproduces white male dominance within the culture;, to a 
-"socialist" government in which the role of woman as wife and 
^'mother has been reproduced in the workplace as well as in the 
home, where any temporary economic advancement for women 
X only reflectstthe opportunism of the government rather than a true 
■desirgforegalitarianism. These women are not satisfied by relative 
"progress" in a society where rape, prostitution, and harassment 
still exist, where homosexuality is punished, and where "women's 
issues" such as daycare are seen as secondary concerns. 
; Born in Flames is fantasy in presenting a group of women who, 
confronted with the very "ordinary" oppression women have been 
experiencing for decades,, refuse to take it any longer and become 
armed fighters against the government. Their position is that op- 
pression against women is not eliminated automatically with "so- 
cialism"— not only do political values have to change, cultural 
values must change -and become embedded in practice. 

The narrative of the film is disjunctive, cutting between various 
groups of women which represent various conflicting ideological/ 
cultural positions within the women's community. The ideas for 
the script were developed by collaborating with the women in the 
film who, to various degrees, play themselves. The title of the film 
is meant to suggest that even though an armed revolutionary move- 
ment may be impossible to sustain,it will survive as a thorn in the 
side of the culture. The armed activities are directed primarily 
against the media in order to appropriate the language, even for a 
moment. The film also expresses the kopejhat women will be able 
to work together, that the bitter conflicts that have existed within 
the women's community— between lesbians and heterosexuals, be- 
tween women of different races— will one day disappear. 

.^ -,r v !■ ' , ",} >' ? " -r-JLizzie Borden 

The film begins with a TV spot about the Revolution while the offi- 
cial revolutionary song ("We are born in flames. . .") plays. Titles 
appear over the TV image: "New York City, ten years after the 
Social-Democratic War of Liberation": 

This week of celebration, commemorating the 10th Anniver- 
sary of the War of Liberation, is a time when all New Yorkers 
take pride in remembering the most peaceful revolution the 
world has known. It is time to consider the progress of the 
past ten years, and to look forward to the future^ 

The music continues over shots of Manhattan, titles, and Isabel 
(Adele Bertei) speaking from her radio station: 

Hi there. This is Isabel from Radio Regazza, bringing you a 
little tune that you'll be hearing an awful lot these days, from 
the makers of our "Revolution." You might not be hearing 
it here, but you'll be hearing it everywhere else you go. Happy 

The music continues over tracking shots of women workers, in- 
cluding Adelaide Morris (Jeanne Sattersfield), a construction work- 
er. FBI voiceover begins with this image and continues through 
slides of Norris: 

Adelaide Norris, 24. She seems to be the founder of the 
Women's Army. 

Her background? 

Ordinary. Typical of a lot of Blacks. Mother a domestic. Her 

father died when she was a teenager. Eight kids in the family. 

Adelaide's the oldest. She helped raise the others. Always a 

jock, good in track and basketball. Goes to school nights, 

works construction jobs during the day. 


Yes. The Women's Army seems to be dominated by Blacks 

and lesbians. Norris started it as a radical-separatist vigilante 

group three or four years ago. Now it seems to be looking for 

a base of support by instigating various community uprisings 

involving women. 

Adelaide conducts a community meeting about daycare cutbacks: 

I'd like to know if anyone has any ideas or any suggestions 
as to how we can keep this center open, because for those of 
you who are working, what this means is that you're going to 
have to stop working and stay home and take care of your 

Woman at Meeting: No, it's going to be impossible for me to 
stop working. We have to figure out some way we can keep 
the center open independently. 

Honey (playing herself), speaking from her radio station: 

Good evening, this is Honey, coming directly to you from 
Phoenix Radio, a free radio station, a station not only for the 
liberation of women, but for the liberation of all through the 
freedom of life which is found in music. We are all here be- 
cause we have fought in the War of Liberation, and we all 
bear witness to what has happened since the war. We see the 
oppression that still exists, both day and night. For we are 
the children of the light, and we will continue to fight, not 
against the flesh and blood, but against the system that 
names itself falsely. For we have stood on the promises far 
too long now, that we can all be equal, under the cover of a 
social democracy, where the rich get richer and the poor just 
wait on their dreams. 

©1983 Lizzie Borden 

izzie- Borden 

Hillary Hurst (playing herself), a leader of the Women's Army, 
is harassed as she walks past a group of men sitting around a truck. 
Cut to TV spot: 

Setting aside for a while the growing pressure of economic 
crisis, organized labor joined forces in a parade of 150 thou- 
sand up Fifth Avenue to commemorate the overwhelming 
victory by the Social Labor Party ten years ago. Labor's 
abandonment of the old Democratic Party is considered by 
many the cornerstone of today's liberation. 

Isabel and her band (The Bloods) sing "Undercover Nation" in a 
recording studio: 

Headlines screaming as she watches the race/ reading back 
the Constitution/ Leather-legged or a dancer in space/ talk- 
ing 'bout evolution/ She's got a black suit and a red dress/ 
She's got a chest full of the poet's mess/ A hangover and her 
mother's on the phone . . . 
Wake up, wake up 'cause she isn't alone . . . 
Wake up, wake up, could this be you? 

Hillary conducts an induction meeting for women joining the 
Army. One woman questions the use of the word "army" as too 
masculine for a women's group. FBI voiceover begins with this 
image and continues through other images of Hillary: 

Hillary Hurst, 26. We figure her to be the current leader of 
the Women's Army. No official political record, but she's 
been instrumental in bringing the Army to large numbers of 
women through induction meetings she holds around the 
city. It's impossible to say if Hurst is in command. We're not 
even sure how the organization is structured. All we know is 
that they're starting to appeal to women who would have 
written them off as lunatics a few years ago. 

Adelaide and Zella Wylie (Flo Kennedy) watch Mayor Zubrinsky 
on TV: 

As chief executive officer of the city, I am pleased, proud, 
and grateful to you all for affording this city the opportunity 
to share in the anniversary which heralds our society as being 
the first true socialist democracy the world has ever known. 
Ours has been the greatest cultural revolution of all time, 
through which we have wed democracy, with its respect for 
freedom and individualism, and its abhorrence of all forms 
of communism and fascism, with the moral and ethical hu- 
manism of American socialism. 

The Bicycle Brigade: two men accost and attempt to rape a wom- 
an. Behind her screams, the sound of whistles can be heard ap- 
proaching from all directions — bicyclists from the Women's Army 
surround the rapists and drive them away. A TV news report be- 
gins over this image: 

Police have been puzzled in the past week by what they de- 
scribe as well-organized bands of 15 to 20 women on bicycles 
attacking men on the street. While the victims say that these 
incidents were unprovoked, eyewitness reports suggest that 
these men may themselves have been attempting to assault 
women. However, officials have condemned the lawlessness 
of such vigilante groups and ask for information leading to 
the arrest of the women involved. Maybe even their telephone 

Isabel and a woman from Radio Regazza debate this incident: 

Isabel: . . .lesbianism, faggotism, Niggerism, honkeyism. . . 

You know, really that could have been the Women's Army 

that did that. 

No, they're not aggressive enough. 

They're not aggressive enough? What are you talking about? 

I told you, Jules. They're a service to the community, they 

deal in childcare and daycare centers and stuff like that. 

That's not all they do; they're vigilantes; they'd use violence; 

they could have done this easily. 

No. They're not aggressive enough. They're not terrorists. 

Adelaide and another woman from the Army confront a man har- 
assing a woman on the subway. FBI voiceover: 

Well, I wouldn't exactly call them terrorists, although we do 
know that they're responsible for those bicycle incidents. 
That's no big deal. What is the problem is the vigilante sen- 
sibility. We've got to watch 'em. Put some pressure on them 
at their jobs. 

TV news: 

Violence flared today in Lower Manhattan as youths threw 
Molotov cocktails outside City Hall. The demonstration be- 
gan as a protest against what the young men call meaning- 
less jobs given to them through the Workfare program. They 
claim that women and other minorities receive preferential 
treatment in the real job market. However, human services 
officials deny that this is true. 
Angry young men roamed the downtown area, indiscrim- 


inately destroying storefronts and cars and attacking passers- 
by. Police spokesmen denied accusations that they overreact- 
ed, citing the sympathy many officers feel for the demonstra- 
tors' cause. They claim that they handled an explosive and 
dangerous situation as well as could be expected. 

Adelaide at construction site as the foreman hands out paychecks. 
She receives a pink slip: laid off for no apparent reason. The song 
"Born in Flames" begins and continues over a series of images of 
women's hands at conventional women's work as mother, secre- 
tary, dental hygienist, prostitute, etc. Adelaide leads a job demon- 
stration in front of City Hall. Voiceover of the editors of the Social- 
ist Youth Review {SYR) in their office (Pat Murphy, Kathy Bigelow, 
and Becky Johnston): 

As the editors of the Socialist Youth Review, we regret that 
many of the construction and steel workers laid off in the 
past few weeks have been the women hired only last year. 
The industries have been overburdened recently by the enor- 
mous number of minority workers who are applying for a 
limited number of jobs. Only a small percentage of each 
group can be accommodated in these trades. The rest will 
receive alternative placement in the Workfare program. We 
feel that women who immediately cry "sexism" are being 
selfish and irresponsible. Any move toward separatism, the 
demand for equal rights for one group alone, hurts our 
struggle for the equal advancement of all parts of society. 

Zella, speaking to Adelaide: 

I'm going to tell you something. We have a right to violence. 
All oppressed people have a right to violence. And I want to 
tell you something. It's like the right to pee. You've got to 
have the right place, you've got to have the right time, you've 
got to have the appropriate situation, and I'm absolutely 
convinced that this is it. 


Tensions build between sectors of the workforce. The Women's 
Army tries to broaden its constituency by involving the women's 
radio and press. Regazza is unfriendly and the women from 517? 
refuse to help. Phoenix, however, is receptive and a friendship de- 
velops between Adelaide and Honey. As Adelaide becomes more 
and more frustrated with the lack of government response to their 
demonstrations and protests, she begins to feel that the only way 
the Army will be heard is through violence. Her decision to pick up 
arms is encouraged by Zella, but opposed by the rest of the Army. 
While her moves are monitored by the FBI, Adelaide arranges a 
trip to the Western Sahara to work with a revolutionary group that 
agrees to help the Army. When she returns, she is seized at the air- 
port and incarcerated. She dies in jail. The Social-Democratic Par- 
ty calls it a suicide. 

^ Jg&^ 

The SYR editors, told that Adelaide's death was a mistake, be- 
come disenchanted with the Party. Voiceover of their editorial is 
heard as Honey walks by a newsstand and sees Adelaide's photo on 
the front of the paper. 

As editors of the Socialist Youth Review, we have been trou- 
bled "by the official reports on the death of Adelaide Norris, 
the founder of the Women's Army. Grave inconsistencies in 
the police records and in the coroner's report have led us to 
believe that Norris did not commit suicide but was murdered 
— assassinated, if you will, for political reasons. It is alleged 
by the government that Norris was involved in arms dealings 
with the Polisarian rebels sympathetic to her cause. If so, 
why wasn't she allowed a fair trial? When Norris returned 
to New York she had no weapons on her person, nor was 
there any proof that she was successful in her negotiations. 
Did the Party so fear that she could rally an armed group of 
women that an assassination was necessary? 

Zella speaks at an emergency meeting of the Women's Army: 

We've got to make it clear that she's been murdered. And 
we've got to cut through this cover-up, because they'll bury it 
if they can. This is supposed to be an army! We need media. 
We've got to get a message on television that will be seen 

Honey, speaking from Phoenix Radio: 

Greetings. This broadcast has been dedicated to Adelaide 
Norris. Every woman under attack has the right to defend 
herself whenever we are unjustly attacked. Freedom? You 
talk about freedom? Freedom — it's yours, it's right here, 
and it's your right. They may label you, try to classify you, 
and even call you a crazy bitch, but don't flinch, just let 
them. Continue, just as Adelaide Norris. Exercise your rights, 
and your freedom is yours. 

Black women such as Adelaide Norris may be among a 
minority and be insignificant to many. But just like the fuse 
that ignites the whole bomb, we are important. Black wom- 
en, be ready. White women, get ready. Red women, stay 
ready, for this is our time and all must realize it. 

Montage of groups of women preparing for action: looking through 
blueprints, training physically, casing out CBS. Cut to 517? editors 
discussing whether printing photos of Adelaide would sensation- 
alize a dead body or serve to mobilize. Next, a shot of Honey sing- 
ing as she shaves her head in the bathtub: 

To fulfill the need to be/ who I am in this world/ is all I ask./ 
I cannot pretend to be/ someone that I'm not/ and I can't 
wear a mask./ There's this need to be true to myself and 
make my own mistakes./ And I don't want to lean too hard 
on someone else. . . 









Four women, one carrying a videotape, enter a back door at CBS 
during a live telecast of the President's speech on Wages for House- 

My fellow Americans, good evening. I am speaking with you 
this evening to ask your support for a program which this 
Administration believes is a critical step forward toward 
greater justice, equality, and freedom for all our citizens. . . 

A security guard challenges the women as they try to get to the 
control rooms. They pull their guns out and overpower him. 

. . .in every aspect of our social and economic life. Tonight, 
I am asking your support for a critical part of that program 
which will affect the lives of 40 million of our citizens. Ameri- 
can women. . . 

P Two of the women, one with a machine gun, burst into the VTR 
| room; they order the technicians to put their videotape on: 

1 ... that for the first time in our history will provide women 

with Wages for Housework. Women who would rather devote 
S themselves to their families will be freed from the double 

| burden of work outside and inside the home. 

. The other two women pull guns on technicians in the control room 
and demand that their videotape be punched onto live broadcast 
! Suddenly the President's speech is interrupted: 

Zella Wylie here, and we interrupt this broadcast to talk to 
% you about the murder of Adelaide Norris by federal agents. 

1 They called it suicide but a lot of people don't buy that lie. 

I She was murdered because she stood up against the betrayal 

3 of women. We're being sold down the river — at home, at 

work, and in the media. And now the President wants to 

pacify us with Wages for Housework. Wages for Housework 
ij is a dupe. . . 

1 The "terrorists" are dragged away by the police. TV commentary 
| by the District Attorney following a news report about the break-in: 

The aim of the Revolution was the equality of all men and all 
women and all people. Insofar as these women struggle for 
selfish ends, for ends that are against the aims of all the peo- 
ple, which arc embodied in this revolutionary government. W^'^&M^M^-^^^^^^MM^ 
those aims must be stamped out by any means necessary. W^0^M^f^£^ffii^^^^ 
The means (hat are at hand for us are the means of the erim- i|^A^|S|!|&lf^.^^^M?^g 
inal law. What these women have done is utterly self-interest- fep^^^f^^^^i^^Slss 
ed. They are not concerned with the progress of all of us . . . M^^^^M^^^^^BC^MW 

too, believe that the Party has been undermining the eco- 
nomic and social position of women. Our government, which 
has prided itself on being the first successful socialist democ- 
racy, is neither democratic nor socialist. In forming an alli- 
ance with male Labor, the government has reinforced the 
caste system that has always existed in this country. Women 
fought the War of Liberation with certain expectations in 
mind: that the government would work, beyond reform, 
toward a truly egalitarian society. But unless we struggle now 
for our rights, we will always be oppressed. 

The SYR editors with their managing editor (Ed Bowes) as he be- 
rates them for their editorial: 

You've made it impossible for the Party to keep you on as 

editors. You've taken a position of considerable power and 

you've thrown it away. And you've also taken a woman, 

Adelaide Norris— probably a malcontent — and made her 

into a hero. 

Kathy: It's not just Adelaide Norris. 

Pat: She's right. It's a lot of other issues as well. We can no 

longer compromise our position by continuing to work for 

this newspaper. 



Zella tells Honey what she can do for the Women's Army: 

You can do all that can be done. The most important thing 
of all is media, our media — communication. You've got a 
radio station. Your job is to see that it can't be quieted, that 
it can't be bullshitted out, and that we make the connec- 
tions . . . 

Psychoanalyst on "The Belle Gayle Show" on TV: 

Psychoanalyst: If I may say so, this has been a very satisfying 

thing because it has proved an ancient theory of Freud's, 

that there is a primary female masochism, a deep-rooted, 

rock-bottom sort of thing. Of course we don't see that; what 

you see is the secondary manifestation, the reversal of that — 

the secondary female sadism. 

Belle Gayle: The secondary female sadism? 

Yes. All these so-called pranks. 

You mean their deeper impulse is masochistic but they fear 

to express it in that fashion? 

That's right. There's a terror of their own masochism . . . 

Zella is arrested by the FBI and booked. The Army becomes in- 
creasingly violent as the police become more oppressive. Voiceover 
by the women editors: 

As the editors of the Socialist Youth Review, we would like 
to comment on the CBS break-in last week by the Women's 
Army. In a videotape by Zella Wylie, the Women's Army 
exposed government duplicity not only in the cover-up of 
Adelaide Norris's death, but in the repression of active fem- 
inism with Wages for Housework. We extend our support to 
the Army as a legitimate revolutionary group, because we, 

Isabel at Radio Regazza: 

Wake up! We're being murdered out there in the streets. 
And if you're going to sit by and watch it happen, sister, all 
your babies, and yourselves, you're going to be cleaned out — 
we ain't going to be around no more! Now get it together. It's 
time to fight! This is for all the dead heroes out there. Yeah! 



It's time to work some voodoo on these motherfuckers, sis- 
ters. This is a message to the Women's Army and to women 
everywhere. Wake up! This is station 2016 on your dial. If 
you can't find it then you're in trouble, sister. 

Pat, one of the SYR editors, meets with the Women's Army: 

One of the things we have to realize is that each one of us is 
public, that they have a file on each one of us. The idea that 
each one is working privately is just a false one — they can 
pick up each one of us anytime. So what we have to keep 
aiming for is to have control over the language, over our own 
image — so that we have control over describing ourselves. 

TV news: 

Police were called in today to investigate blazes that gutted 
two female-operated unlicensed radio stations, Phoenix Ra- 
dio and Radio Regazza. Citing the recent backlash against 
women extremists, officials say that the suspicious and pos- 
sibly related fires may have been the work of vandals. 

In a meeting initiated by Isabel, the women from Phoenix and 
Regazza decide to steal trucks and equipment in order to make 
two mobile radio stations. Honey participates, on the condition 
that they work with the Women's Army. 

The women from SYR become involved with the Army. When 
the Army interrupts another TV program, it is Pat who delivers the 
message. Some of her speech is heard over images of Phoenix and 
Regazza stealing U-Haul trucks: 

We are interrupting this program to bring you a special mes- 
sage from the Women's Army, and we will continue to make 
this kind of direct action until everyone understands and is 
prepared to do something about the way the government has 
betrayed women. Look at the reality of your lives. The gov- 
ernment thinks that socialism was instituted ten years ago, 
after the War of Liberation, but it denies the very basis of 
Jxue socialism, which is constant struggle and change. Wasn't 
: War of Liberation fought to create an egalitarian 

i FBI presentatio 
The entire organization, which is represented by the circle, is 
about 1000 women. It's subdivided into small cells, each of 
which selects its own leader on a rotating basis. After each of 
these small cells has selected a leader, about every three or 
four months a leader for the entire organization is selected 
from those leaders, and this is the problem: We don't know 
at any given time who is in charge. 

tions in the home? The media, the tool of the government, 
reinforces their position by promoting images of women as 
wives and mothers. We are surrounded by the very images 
our mothers fought to destroy. Decades of women's work for 
socialism, for freedom of choice, equality of opportunity, are 
being swept away. Once again we are being placed outside 
politics. It's not only women who will suffer. You know the 
pattern. Blacks, Latins, all ethnic and social groups will suf- 
fer, as the old sex, race, and class divisions reemerge. There 
can be no true socialism until we are all represented in gov- 
ernment. We demand a quota system which is truly expres- 
sive of our numbers, and we will not stop fighting until we 
get proportional representation in government. 

Phoenix and Regazza broadcast from their new mobile stations: 

Good evening, this is Honey, coming directly to you from the 
new Phoenix and Regazza radio station, a station not only 
dedicated to the liberation of women, but a station dedicated 
to deconstruct and reconstruct all the laws that suppress and 
oppress all of us. Now if you should lose our broadcast, you 
may have to search your dial, for Phoenix and Regazza are 
now on the move. 

Meanwhile, the ultimate action is planned by the Army: A bomb is 
made; blueprints of the World Trade Center transmitter locations 
consulted; a woman enters the WTC with the bomb in her purse. 

Good morning. This is Isabel, broadcasting from the new 
Phoenix-Regazza radio station. I'd like to open up by mak- 
ing a statement on behalf of Adelaide Norris and the Wom- 
en's Army. Her murder serves as a warning for women every- 
where of the struggle we face, and the truth will be heard as 
the story must and shall be told. It is not only the story of 
women's oppression; it is the story of sexism, racism, bigotry, 
nationalism, false religion, and the blasphemy of the state- 
controlled Church; the story of environmental poisoning and 
nuclear warfare, of the powerful over the powerless for the 
sake of sick and depraved manipulations that abuse and 
corner the human soul like a rat in a cage. It is all of our re- 
sponsibility as individuals to examine and reexamine every- 
thing, leaving no stones unturned. Every word that we utter, 
every action and every thought, we are all, women and men, 
the prophets of this new age, and for those of us who would 
be safer in the sensibilities of racism, separatism, and mar- 
tyrdom, if you can't help us toward building this living 
church, then step out of the way! The scope and capability of 
human love are as wide and encompassing as this vast uni- 
verse that we all swirl in, one for all and all for oneness. This 
fight will not end in terrorism and violence. It will not end in 
a nuclear holocaust. It begins in a celebration of the rights of 
alchemy, the transformation of shit into gold, the illumina- 
tion of dark chaotic night into light. This is the time of sweet, 
sweet change for us all. This is Isabel for Phoenix-Regazza 
Radio, signing off until tomorrow. 

A male TV announcer is seen standing outside, in lower Manhat- 
tan, in front of the World Trade Center: 

But have we gone too far? It is time to ask if the programs of 
yesterday's liberation have become the stagnation of today. 
We cannot ignore the monumental inflation with which we 
are burdened, nor can we condone the widespread abuse 
rampant in our social system. At home we are becoming 
trapped in bureaucracy, and throughout the rest of the world 
our influence wanes. The management of this station fears 
that oversocialization has transformed our democracy into a 
welfare state. If we are to survive our ideals, we must careful- 
ly consider their implications. This, in the midst of our cele- 
bration, is the opinion of WNYC. . 


Suddenly, his voice is interrupted by a deafening explosion, as the 

WTC transmission tower blows up. 

Lizzie Borden is a filmmaker and art critic living and working in New 
York City. This is her first narrative feature. 






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In the stat room I'm enlarging a chrome of her. 
All these girl sets are beginning to look the 
same. It's frightening how when I go to crop 
the image the art director's designs are ~~ 
becoming automatic, "We don't care about 
the furniture just don't crop her pubes." 
Very often I feel like her— like I'm selling 
myself. How can I be a feminist and work on a 
skin magazine? Not that Vogue would be 
that different. But I'm trying to get by 
get skills— get out of here . . . 
It's lunch, 

I go downstairs with a friend from work 
A blonde woman is standing outside 
the office building and we 
H recognize her as the 

woman on this month's cover. 

She looks shorter 
than I'd imagined, 
she looks like a 
tourist. We catch the light 
and run across the street. 

lit Mi 



This panel discussion was conducted by Diana Agosta and Edith Becker from the Heresies #16 Collective (HC) in Novem- 
ber 1982 with four women filmmakers and activists: Janice Blood {JB), Director of Public Information for 9 to 5, the national 
organization of women office workers which inspired the movie 9 to 5 arid the TV series; Cara DeVito (CD), who has worked 
on documentaries for the past 10 years, most recently on What Could You Do with a Nickel? about a domestic workers' 
union in the South Bronx; Christine Noschese (CN), who has shown films and tapes to working-class women as an organizer 
for the National Congress of Neighborhood Women and is currently working on a film about community leaders in Brooklyn; 
and Bread a Singleton {BS), a social worker who has been active on the Women's Issue Committee of the National Associa- 
tion of Social Workers and uses film as an organizing and educational tool. 

JJC What do you think about the images 
of working women since the mid- 

(~JM A lot of working-class women object 
to films showing only their oppres- 
sion and not showing their joy, their laugh- 
ter, their love. Successful feminist films in 
this country have been upbeat; they've 
talked about the leadership women have 
provided and discussed the problems with- 
in that context. This way, there is more of 
an interrelationship and women feel the 
films represent them. After all, who wants 
to be told what might be wrong with them? 

CD ^he dilemma is that you don't want 
to show that everything is wonderful 
and these women have life easy, because 
that's the lie traditional media shows. It 
doesn't show working-class women be- 
cause we don't fit into the situation come- 
dies or Madison Avenue hype. Therefore, i 
white middle-class America doesn't want| 
to see or hear about it. I want to show peo- 
ple struggling for their dignity, their eco- 
nomic rights, and controlling their destiny, 
and show it in a positive light. The danger 
is making it too superficial or upbeat be- 
cause then it's just another fable about 

TIC In terms of using films to organize, 
it's very important to include those 
women whom the film's about in the film- 
making process. Only those people can say 
what the situation actually is. Others can 
look into it and talk about it, but you know 
when someone is telling her own story. 

CN With any organizing, people need to 
feel they have some ability to change 
things. It's very hard to use film that does 
not give the sense that, even though people 
struggle, they can achieve something in the 

Facing page: Both photographs are of the same 
woman. The photo in the foreground appeared 
in a newspaper interview with the model. 

Graphic by Nicky Lindeman, an artist who lives 
and works in New York City. 

© 1 983 Nicky Lindeman © 1 983 Diana Agosta and Edith Becker 

end. Lots of films, however, are more opti 
mistic in the end than in reality. I'm not 
sure that they have to be. For example, 
Wilmar 8 doesn't have a truly optimistic 
ending, but women seem to like it. They 
don't feel it's a movie of oppression be- 
cause it shows women as real people taking 
as much control over their lives as they can 
against odds they just couldn't beat. The 
women in Wilmar 8 are not passively talk- 
ing about how they lost. That would be de- 
pressing. We see them demonstrate. A story 
just about failure wouldn't be a great 

TR We found a bit of hopelessness 
among our membership when it was 
first shown. That has changed over the last 
year as office workers and their rights be- 
come a topical issue. There were no unions 
in existence at the time the Wilmar 8 went 
out on strike, but now unions are interest- 
ed in clerical workers, even our own organ- 
ization. For uses of organizing, there 
-should be a feeling after the movie that 
; there's a way to get a hold of the oppressive 
situation, whether it's documentary or fic- 
tional film. 

Based on what the members of 9 to 5 
have experienced, there seems to be a big 
division between documentary and fiction- 
alized story telling, commercial TV and 
PBS. Union Maids is shown by our mem- 
bers all across the nation, even though 
those women were not office workers, their 
struggles go back a long time, and they 
show heavy union involvement; and 9 to 5 
is in a sense a preunion organization. But 
we feel its continued popularity is because 
of its spirit — how women describe them- 
selves, what they've gone through and how 
they've met it. There is hope in their strug- 
gle for justice in the workplace. I compare 
that feeling with our experiences with the 
movie 9 to 5. There is so much lacking 
there that should be said. But there are 
unbelievable obstacles in commercial 
media that prevent anything that seems 
real from getting made. 

Still, our members tended to feel happy 
'and proud that an actual commercial mov- 
ie was made about women office workers 
and not an obscure documentary. They are 
so starved for some depiction of themselves 
that it was okay when the only thing that 
emerged was a movie saying office workers 
have some problems. Never mind if they 
solve them and, of course, it was a comedy. 
But some of the issues portrayed are part 
of working life: a person who doesn't get 
promoted, no job training, people treated 
without respect. It is worth seeing this 
movie, but not in the same way as Union 
Maids or Rosie the Riveter. The real people 
in the movie made a difference and they 
impart a sense that "We could do that, 
too." The commercial movie lacks any 
sense of encouragement. It's a glorification 
of office work and workers. 

TIC I'd like to see more films offering 
role models. We know what the 
problems are. We need to see some solu- 
tions of how women deal with certain 
things successfully on a realistic basis. For 
instance, there's a million types of families 
these days, not a "typical" two-parent 
family with a car and house, which is what 
we see on the screen. More movies should 
include working women and day-to-day 
involvement with daycare, and how to sur- 
vive, the basics. This is what viewers are 
starving for. That's why Awake from 
Mounting inspires such a reaction. It's a 
film about a self-help movement among 
South African women. It's very subtle, on 
a day-to-day routine rather than on some- 
thing major like a riot or a strike. There's 
nothing wrong with strikes but it's also im- 
portant to show what goes on in an organ- 
ized women's community on a day-to-day 
basis. This is helpful for organizing. Even 
the social workers I showed it to were very 

/~W Movies are one place where the 

women's movement should applaud 

itself. It's from the movement that these 

films about working-class women got 


made. The women's movement is accused 
of not being concerned about class and mi- 
nority issues but in the independent film 
community it's been women who've been 
very concerned about those issues and 
active in them. 

CD ^ ne process for making these films 
is also very important. For What 
Could You Do with a Nickel?, three of us 
went into the South Bronx looking like a 
network with all this equipment. The wom- 
en didn't know the money came out of our 
own pockets. They thought we were going 
to make a sensational story and show the 
poor people. What we did was to get in- 
volved with the actual organizing. We pick- 
eted, leafletted, attended meetings, and 
encouraged leadership among the women 
— the community group the women were 
involved in was headed by a very good 
man, who just didn't make the leap to try 
to cultivate leadership among the women. 
That's one way to get involved aside from 
the editing process. 

JJC What was the use of the film for the 
women in the South Bronx? 

Qjy They felt good that they were the 
subject of a film. They were feeling 
completely fucked over by everyone. They 
were doing traditional women's work, low- 
est paid on the social ladder. They wanted 
to communicate to others that they'd gone 
this far and other people should learn from 
what they did. 

(J^ I had a community advisory board 
before anything was shot for my film 
Women of the Northside Fight Back. At 
one minute I was saying, "Ha, ha, I have 
all these women from the community on 
my board and I'm gonna make a political- 
ly correct movie," and at other times I 
felt, "Oh no, all these people are telling me 
what to do and I'm not going to be able to 
say what I want to say with the film." It's 
very frightening. None of the 20 women 
agreed with one another anyway. They 
were all from different ethnic groups and 
were all leaders. As soon as they saw I was 
in their corner and understood the issues 
they wanted to communicate, I had their 
trust. It was only my own fear. People trust- 
ed me. That was nice. 

JJfJ What about showing contradictory 
opinions in a film? How does the 
complexity of the issue get conveyed to the 

CN We have to start talking about form 
then. Not form that is not entertain- 
ing or that is boring or so way-out that peo- 
ple can't relate to it. Form in terms of what 
is a style that can represent women's is- 
sues. One of the problems is that the dra- 
matic forms we know now do not represent 
the holistic view of women's lives and the 
way women see them. Now the forms limit 
us and the way we can portray women and 
these issues, and that's the reason for some 
of the ambivalences. 

j}<jj I found that when I saw A wake from 
Mourning by myself I reacted to 


certain things but then when I viewed the 
same film with others, the majority of 
whom, in this case, were white middle- 
class with several Black women, something 
very different happened. Part of the pur- 
pose of this particular screening was to 
raise consciousness about women of color 
and to introduce some ideas about what's 
going on in South Africa, and to show 
some of the parallels with our own lives. It 
was incredible because there were so many 
different levels coming out of the film. For 
example, the film addresses many issues of 
self-help movements; the women in the 
film make their own clothes and grow their 
own food and do not depend on factory 
work. That has a lot of implications. 

The film negated a lot of racial issues 
because it showed very articulate Black 
women from South Africa. The audience 
was saying, "Ah, uh, I didn't know they 
could talk or express what they need." 
Most people can express what they need. 
You ask them what they need, they'll tell 

Some women who are making decisions 
for other people and organizing are so far 
removed from what's going on. We've got- 
ten very professional with all the jargon, 
and sometimes lose sight of the real issues. 
I think film helps explore these issues. It's 
a consciousness-raising tool. The issues 
don't have to be resolved in the movie. 
Film shows it on the screen and allows peo- 
ple to take it in, sift it around and then 
react to it. In fact it was the next day when 
I saw some of these women that most of 
the discussion took place. 

where you see a problem on the screen that 
is similar to your own, suddenly you begin 
to see these things don't have to do only 
with yourself. It puts it in perspective and 
makes it "tackleable." That's why the 
point of view of the people must come 
through. As organizers we need to see that 
truth in a film. We can say to a woman 
that what she experiences is institutional 
discrimination; but it's much better to see 
on screen another woman experience it 
and see how she is capable of dealing with 

CN As a feminist organizer, I think it's 
much easier to use the types of films 
we've been talking about where we show 
the empowerment of women. It's con- 
sciousness raising to have women feel they 
can control their own lives in some way. I 
consider CR an organizing issue, so then 
it's very easy to use films for women's or- 
ganizing. I've used Cara's videotape on her 
grandmother who was a battered woman. I 
don't think Cara knew that tape would 
have such a use. It was a personal tape. I 
used it in a working-class neighborhood in 
Brooklyn to discuss battered women. It's 
more difficult to use other kinds of film 
than women's films with women. I don't 
know if it's because women's films are bet- 
ter, but I have some prejudices in this area, 
or because they have a personal quality 
and are in touch with an everyday politic. 

Jg Another way to use films for orga- 
nizing is to use study guides. 9 to 5 
developed a study guide to go along with 
Wilmar 8. California Newsreel distributes 

Beverly Benkowitz 

Susan Moishe 

Annette Moy 

JJJ Something Brenda just said rang a 
bell. We found that the biggest ben- 
efit of all the films we've worked with and 
were part of was that the fact that it's on 
film suddenly made it more concrete. It's 
like knowing something in the back of 
your mind without being able to verbalize 
it; then seeing it on screen makes it legiti- 
mate. For women this is incredibly impor- 
tant because we're so used to internalizing 
our experiences. We don't seem to have an 
outer reality. The most negative extreme is 
to blame oneself for things that are objec- 
tively not your own fault: institutionalized 
discrimination, not dressing for success, or 
"I don't have enough education." But 

the film and got a grant which allowed 
them to turn money over to us to produce 
the study guide. Our labor education 
organizer put together a guide that is ap- 
plicable to any group of people, though it's 
primarily for working women. She put it 
together so that a group meeting regularly 
would use it differently from a group meet- 
ing only to view the film. In all instances she 
drew together many different forms of in- 
volvement. For example, one issue that the 
film deals with is pay equity. In order to 
explain that issue, part of the manual asks 
people to guess the salaries for a steelwork- 
er and an executive secretary and a whole 
range of jobs that fall into the predomi- 

nantly female or male categories. That's 
how people found out about pay inequal- 
ity. The manual was designed to add ap- 
proximately 45 minutes to the film. It 
suggests giving a brief introduction and 
having the audience note particular things 
during viewing. It's just now being printed 
so we don't know how well it will work or 
what people's experiences will be with it. 
But that may be one more way to make 
films applicable to groups that you might 
otherwise think would not find a film of 

JJC Talking about appealing to a broad- 
er audience seems to relate back to 
the question of commercial media. How do 
you deal with the damaging images of 
working women shown on TV and in the 

f^N That's partially why we want other 
mythical images of ourselves on 
screen. It's partially a reaction to all this 
negativity we feel in our lives. The inde- 
pendent films are positive in terms of how 
we see ourselves as women. We need that 
image to counteract the terrible way we're 
made to feel by current media. 

J|J That's one reason we pounced on 
Norma Rae with such glee and gra- 
titude. [Agreement.] It's not as if that was 
a totally accurate portrayal of what organ- 
izing is. She just did it in two hours flat. 
[Laughter.] But to actually see a woman as 
the hero was so wonderful that we could 
hardly stand it. Especially as a commercial 

A big problem is the whole area of 

entertainment, where networks and stu- 
dios feel they can't simply tell the truth 
when telling a story — they've got to enter- 
tain. The politics of this is that they say 
"entertain" but they really mean a million 
dollars gross at the box office or good rat- 
ings. With the exception of Jane Fonda's 
production company, our experience with 
networks and Hollywood has been terrible. 
There's a noticeable lack of minorities and 
women in important positions. People are 
paid so much and peak so young that no 
one believes these people could portray my 
reality. How could a white 28-year-old 
male earning $170,000 a year presume to 
know what my life is about? This sounds 

funny, but that's who's writing for tele- 

Last Tuesday some young white guy 
from NBC called and said, "We're think- 
ing of making a TV movie and we're think- 
ing of an office worker who gets black- 
mailed by her boss and we want to talk to 
some women who this might have hap- 
pened to." Before I could help myself, I 
said, "How do you guys think this stuff 
up?" He said, "Pardon me." And I said 
that I can't believe any boss would be stu- 
pid enough to blackmail his secretary be- 
cause secretaries across the board in the 
USA are earning a little below $11,000 a 
year. And you're gonna blackmail her? I 
don't even know how to respond to that. 

CD ^his brings up an interesting point. 
Do you stay completely separate 
from mainstream commercial media or do 
you try to infiltrate somehow? You're up 
against a power structure that's so big that 
the effect you can have working on the in- 
side is so small. Yet if you don't start mak- 
ing small inroads like Norma Rae, which 
gets people wanting something more dar- 
ing, is it ever going to make an impact? 

rjJJ But look who gets to make Norma 
Rae. Martin Ritt had a lot of success 
before he got to make Norma Rae. 

Tg It's important to make films that 
come put of the grassroots, that are 
not doctored up for the networks and 
which tell the story just as it is. On the 
other hand, we need to try to chip away at 
them. Sometimes it happens in a big way, 
at other times, it's just the cumulative ef- 
fect of a chip here and a chip there. 

£JT\ I'd never worked for a network, but 
I was so broke after my last tape, I 
got a job in NBC's news department. I 
have all sorts of torments over whether to 
leave and starve or stay and argue with the 
producer for my points of view, and try to 
get in there and do the documentaries even 
though they're gonna keep pushing me 
down. It's a real conflict for me. 

gjj It's important to stay in touch with 
the mainstream because it, too, is a 
reality. If you can deal with the politics 
and bureaucracy, I'd rather someone be a 
part of the decision-making process who is 
informed than someone who is totally re- 
moved from women's grassroots organiz- 
ing. The producer of Awake from Mourn- 
ing got her money from her father, a busi- 
nessman in South Africa. She took her in- 
heritance and put it back into the commu- 
nity from which it was taken. It's a fantas- 
tic film made by the privileged. So it's im- 
portant to work on both levels. My feeling, 
too, is that distribution is a big problem 
for these films. How many people who 
need to see them even know they exist? 
Women who are already organized should 
use the films, but more basically most of 
these films should be seen by the commu- 
nity people who are not organized. The 
real problem is to use those human re- 
sources that we have. 

TR But that's how organizations can 

(~W It's also depressing from the film- 
maker's point of view that here they 
are living on crumbs to make these films 
and then who gets to see them? If they're 
lucky, some people in colleges or universi- 
ties will see them, but the filmmaker is in- 
terested in reaching people in the streets. 
To reach a group you almost have to have 
an organized effort. You do it through your 
organization. But if people don't know 
there is such a thing as independent film, 
that's a problem. How do you expect films 
to work? Do you expect the people to storm 
the barricades after seeing a film? How do 
you use anything in your work? Each film 
is going to do different things for people. 
The people are always different and there's 
no particular rule to say how you can use a 

gj§ It takes the person or group to sort 
those things out. You should know 
the audience as well as the film. If I show a 
film to a professional group the issues that 
they should be dealing with are different 
from those of a community group. Some- 
body's got to do that work. The more I use 
film the more I know this is true. 

£W All these films we're talking about 
are self-distributed or distributed 
through small nonprofit distributors. This 
means that the only reason they are getting 
seen at all is that these people are putting 
in labor and capital to get their films to the 
groups. Forget about commercial access. 
Most distributors don't do anything for 
these films. So that's a joke. First you have 
to make the film, then self-distribute, then 
make an organization to make people 
aware of the films. . . . 

JJC But as feminist workers, is there a 
use to trying to get the films on TV, 
where every woman is isolated from other 

CD The value of screening in the com- 
mercial world is that our own im- 
ages are fighting the images that we see as 
socially acceptable. The work is seen not 
just as a project of a lunatic fringe group 
that feels women are human beings and 
deserve rights. Everyday you turn on TV or 
go to the movies and it's ludicrous. You 
don't have to be in a group to begin to feel 
the power of these images. 

fW Put a film on TV and millions of 
people will see it. If you're self-dis- 
tributing it, to get those millions of people 
will take you the rest of your life. TV, even 
without the proper publicity, is very impor- 
tant. Although I don't think that commu- 
nity people who see a film in a room with 
the projector think that it's only a fringe 
group. I prefer seeing something on a big 
screen to seeing it in a little box. Seeing 
something on a big screen does something 
to you in the gut. It has a more mythical 
quality. It makes us heroes, bigger than 
life. The bigger the screen, the bigger the 


Photo by Donna Gray 

woman hero. And you can't get these films 
in a commercial theater or on the networks 

C\Ty There should be a way to infiltrate 
standard images. It shouldn't al- 
ways be this polarized thing: the alterna- 
tive image out there and then the stuff 
everybody accepts as real. We should start 
fighting to get that known. 

RjC It's unrealistic to expect documen- 
taries or real struggle films to come 
on TV or to the theaters on a big scale. It's 
a grand idea but on a smaller scale, can we 
even be effective with the films we have 
and the means we have to distribute them 
to people we know in decision-making and 
leadership roles? I think that is a powerful 
use of film. It is not a bad idea to show film 
to people who could make a difference. 
You can't always deal with people who are 
totally on the bottom. I'm not saying I 
wouldn't reach out, too, but sometimes 
you have to talk to people who are in a po- 
sition to affect many other people. I'm 
thinking of distribution realistically. 

TR But professional groups are usually 
not the people you want to reach 
and I'm not sure how useful it is to use this 
strategy when you really want to reach of- 
fice workers and people on the street. 

CD These people in leadership positions 
have a vested interest in not seeing 
these films and their points of view. None 
of the unions will use our film because it's 
critical of the bureaucracy of unions. It's 
for rank-and-file union members to push 
the unions to be responsive to the needs of 
the women. The white male leaders aban- 
doned the Black and Latina domestic 
women workers when the going got tough 
and every other union organizing domestic 
workers followed. Well, the film's critical 
of that. 


TR Wilmar 8 is a terrible indictment of 
the trade union movement in certain 
ways. You see this man from the UAW say- 
ing, "Gee, gee, we couldn't help the girls." 
He was awful and yet unions are very inter- 
ested in the movie now because a lot of 
them want to start organizing clericals. Af- 
ter three years, they don't feel as ashamed 
as they did and Wilmar 8 is quite the dar- 
ling of the unions. 

CN When something becomes history, it 
becomes less threatening than when 
it's right then and there. 

TR But are we going to have to wait 
three, five or ten years until it's not 
a hot potato in order to get it distributed 

JJC What about the role of 9 to 5 as the 
consultants for the TV series "9 to 
5"? What kind of effect do you hope to 

"TO Such a topic that is! I was in LA for 
three months when they did the first 
four episodes. Our role is to be a conduit 
between our members and these producers 
who know nothing about real work, mak- 
ing $145 a week and being a woman. We 
have to provide incidents they can develop 
into a story or that might be vignettes in 
part of the episode: to add some reality 
and to be a check against their mistakes. 
We had high hopes and so did Jane Fonda. 
We were thinking the series would be a 
cross between "Hill Street Blues" and 
"M*A*S*H." Unfortunately, the way the 
network world works today, a show doesn't 
get a full season to see if it makes it. They 
may give you a pilot from which a series 
would come — if the ratings are good. Or, 
since we had the movie, they gave us four 
episodes to make it. Everybody got scared 
doing the four probationary episodes. We 
understood ratings was the game and not 

truth. The writers were the most scared. 
The producer gets day-to-day total control 
over who's hired and fired, even casting. 
Jane's role as Executive Producer usually 
is an inactive one, but she wanted to be 
involved. But she also understood that she 
would have to come up against the pro- 
ducer, 20th Century-Fox, the production 
facility, and ABC TV. There was very little 
she could do. 

JJC Other than inviting you to LA for 
three weeks, were any other secreta- 
ries invited or any other research done? 

TR We've encouraged our members 
through leafletting to write about 
what they like and hate about the show 
and to write their own experiences. We 
don't have that kind of impact at the net- 
work. All we can do is jump up and down 
if things get really bad. But then it's just 
for one instance. They don't learn anything 
cumulatively about working women in gen- 
eral — a very discouraging process. We've 
come to the point now where we don't 
think a commercial TV show about secre- 
taries is worth it if the women are not por- 
trayed the way we know office workers 
have to live day by day. Our members ex- 
press a lot of disappointment in the series 
so far. But the networks get their rewards 
by ratings, not political motivations. It's a 
dollar and cents game. If they get ratings 
they get more revenue, and the ratings of 
"9 to 5" have been terrific. But we don't 
think politically the show has any meritori- 
ous impact. 

RCj What would you like to do with it if 
you had your choice? 

TR I'd like to hire at least three of the 
writing team as women over 40, have 
a much heavier female writing crew, and 
I'd like to see the stars of the show, the reg- 
ular cast, have much more meaty parts. 
Particularly for the minority women. If you 
changed those two things we'd be on our 
way to making it a meaningful show. Now 
it lacks an understanding of what it is to be 
a woman over 40, which is after all two of 
the central characters: Roz and Rita. The 
writers simply don't know how to write for 
these characters. I think it would drive me 
completely mad if I were Black, particular- 
ly seeing how Blacks are portrayed on TV. 

BS Absolutely! 

QK PBS is supposed to be our public 
access, but they're not representing 
women well. 

(~JT) The public television stations have 
just as much a vested interest in 
the ratings as commercial TV. The money 
they're getting comes from corporations 
underwriting these programs. It's free 
publicity for Mobil, Exxon. 

C]V But their rhetoric is that we believe 
in narrowcasting. That's why we 
have the opera and "Great Performances" 
— because we do shows for special groups 
of people interested in public television. 
We're not broadcasters like national com- 

mercial networks. Within their logic, it 
seems that they wouldn't have as high a re- 
gard for ratings as for networks. 

Tg It took over a year's effort to get 
Wilmar 8 on public TV. 

£~W There is not as much feminist pres- 
sure on public TV as there was five 
or six years ago when we had "Woman 
Alive" on. 

g§ Feminists are not organized enough 
to lobby for this. 

JJ£J This brings us back to the commu- 
nity. It's the communities for which 
the films are made who also have to sup- 
port the films, the filmmakers, and do the 
work of distribution and exhibition. Chris- 
tine, you conducted a survey with working 
women. How did they find their work in 
the community and in the homes portrayed 
on film and TV? 

£W I did that study a long time ago for 
the National Institute of Education 
on white ethnic working-class women. 
Other studies were conducted with other 
minority women. We had a conference 
using all the results of these surveys. Every 
ethnic and racial group put together a 
package that presented what those women 
felt to be their needs that were not being 
met in their community. Every group in- 
cluded media — film and television — as 
part of their package along with college, 
job training, high school. No group of 
women felt their media needs were being 
met. They analyzed how they were being 
presented, if at all. In Mean Streets you 
don't even see women, Scorcese just had a 
plate there. In the Godfather I and II, well 
how many Italian women do you know who 
are that passive in the home? The Irish 
women were always praying for their hood- 
lum son. A lot of white ethnic women are 
portrayed as if any family pathology were 
the woman's fault. In the films women are 
crazy, overly religious and repressive ele- 

gjC That's one reason, as a Black wom- 
an, I can respect Cecily Tyson and 
the roles she'll portray in movies. She will 
not take a part that portrays Black women 
as very negative or just as a sexual object 
or as the maid. She takes very strong, posi- 
tive roles. It's important to have that kind 
of image, even with Black men. You always 
see the negative, so it's important to focus 
on people's strengths. 

Jg But then how often do you see Cecily 

gjC Exactly, that's because she's taken 
a side. We all have to find that bal- 
ance between the mainstream and hanging 
onto your own values and sense of who you 
are. It doesn't matter where you work. It is 
a challenge at all levels to keep to what you 
believe is right and to deal with bureaucra- 
cies. Movies can show that struggle. 

JJ£J To end with, can you reflect on what 
we need to see in terms of alterna- 
tives in distribution and what images of 

©1983 Erika Rothenberg 

working women we want to see and use in 

BS We need to see women of color, sin- 
gle parents, women struggling with 
the feminization of poverty, coming with 
the cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and day- 
care. It's crucial for a lot of women. As the 
definition of family changes, we need to 
address that variety. We also should try to 
get these films to the communities. I hear 
about good films through professional or- 
ganizations, never from community wom- 
en. These films are not reaching the com- 

It is beneficial to have multiethnic 
and racial film crews so that there is 

feedback within the crew and with the 


C~JW More women should get the oppor- 
tunity to make films. That's still an 
issue. That's specifically one reason we 
don't see a lot of the images that we want 
to see. We see from the independent film 
community that when women get to make 
film, they do a good job. If more women 
made more films and had more positions 
of power, then we'd see those results. The 
industry is still oppressive to women. Also 
I think we have to start defining a clear 
alternative community both in making 
films and in distribution. And they have to 

really relate to each other. The value of 
that community is underestimated. There 
is no way these films are going to be shown 
unless people know about them. Organiz- 
ing ourselves is the only way we're going to 
make these films accessible. 

g§ It's important that there be a light 
at the end of the tunnel. Not only 
that women make films but that women 
get a view of how we can live our lives in a 
positive and supportive way. We live with 
so much stress, we need to learn from each 
other and to get support. 

Jg Personally, I want to see less on 
commercial TV of the woman law- 
yer, doctor, private eye, the witch or super- 
woman, and see more of a mixture — both 
fictional and documentary — of women in 
different environments, different walks of 
life, rural Black women in Black commu- 
nities and women grappling with all the 
things we cope with every day. It's wonder- 
ful to see women heroines, but we'd be 
better served to see women coping success- 
fully — if not winning the big battles, mak- 
ing changes on a daily level. 

We would like to thank Roberta Taseley and 
Joyce Thompson of the NYU Interactive Tele- 
communications Department for providing the 
phone conferencing hook-up, and Marc Weiss 
for suggesting the topic for this panel. 


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The following is a dialogue that occurred during one of the taping 
sessions, when I was in the room with the woman. During the 
others, the women were alone with the camera. 


Everybody's lips are so different. 


I never masturbated until I was 28. I can always make myself 

come. I've never not come when masturbating. . . .It won't be my 
face, right? 


Do you think that lesbians masturbate differently than heterosexu- 
al women? 

Yeah! They have to! 

But maybe it's a function of how repressed you are Sf.Mialh rather 

Yeah, but that has to do with the experiences of sleeping w iili men 
and women, which are qualitamcK dilierent. 

Yeah. But what I was thinking about was, like, super-icpicwrtf- 
sexually lesbians who hardly rwr haw any sex at all. . . thev iust 
play the big gatiw. 

Oh right. Yeah. Bui thc\'ie tun the average when you think ol les- 
bians, I don't think. 

Who knows what the average is. bin 1 would .suspect that hi the 
given population til'l<:s!>t\iiis there's just as much sexual repression 
as there 

Oh right. 

So I was just wondering whether what was the impurtmit thing 
here — whether it was the straightnrss or tin- gayness or what'.' 

Well, I think the difference is, even though there's a lot of repres- 
sion, there's stilla basic admission that the vapn.i is not the issul, 
ligln! 1 moan two women sleeping toucthiT. one woman doesn't 
have .in iiiiiTOsl , lvally. in stk'l.injj her penis or her linger, chl into 
the olliei woman's;ina for the purposes of. netting off, right! So 
that she, the t.\o wonun know more about tlieii bodies th:m men 
and women do. 

[Sigh of agreein riu.\ 

And that there isn't that difloiviiee in how people come, you know 
what I mean? I m-un a man and a woman, a guy has to put his 

Right, right. 

into a woman's vagina for the purposes of coming and that doesn't 
mean that his pelvic bone is going to hit against her clitoris 


at the magic hour. 

Not to mention how many women still think that they need a penis 
in order to come. 

Right. I know and that's incredible. 

You know, before I really understood what was going on, in terms 
of— this was way way back — the first man that I ever slept with 
was an incredible lover in the sense that he turned me onto my 
clitoris. I mean, not through fucking, but other — tongues, hands — 
and it was, like, the most incredible, absolutely incredible experi- 
ence and I almost didn't know what it was. And fucking felt, sort 
of, I mean, it was interesting but it felt, like, second-rate because 
you never have that total orgasm where you just feel that your 
whole body was shot through with this incredible feeling or energy, 
you know, and then you just feel like [sigh of total pleasure] and, 
you know, I personally have never experienced that in fucking 
[laughter] although I guess I know how to say it [more laughter]. I 

was going to say that I have enjoyed fucking, but I, that feels, I 
mean, I don't know what that means anymore really, and in fact 
the more conscious I became around sexuality, the less I liked 
fucking 'cause I always knew that I wasn't going to get what I 
wanted, although if I knew the man then I could feel free to ask or 
he knew me enough to know what I really liked, you know, but 
God, men [sigh of pensive riddance], I haven't slept with a man in 
almost a year. 

The first time these tapes were shown was at the Grey Art Gal- 
lery at New York University in May 1976. It took us two days to set 
up the show and it was to open on the third day at 11 a.m. I arrived, 
at 10 and was greeted at the door with the news that the tapes were 
not going to bepermitted to be shown. News had filtered to the 
Dean and the Head of the Department that there were THESE 
MASTURBATING TAPES among the installations. Their reac- 
tion was NO GO. I was furious; they hadn't even seen the tapes. 
InManUtncously. the Directors of the Gallery (a man and a woman) 
stampeded me: I invited them to view the tapes. They accepted. I 
turned on the live TVs, they took one glance and yanked me to the 
hack mom. "It tin: MEDIA," they said, "got hold of this, the Gal- 
I lery would be closed down." Oh, they UNDERSTOOD what I was 
Utrying 1o do with the t.ipes, but I just had to understand their posi- 
tion. I understood- CENSORSHIP. They then told me of a show 
ili.n. they 'had had the year before in which Hit. . painting of 

a woman's crotch; the Board of DueUors .tlmost closed them 
down. That did it. I piomised them i woman's demonstration that 
\cr\ afternoon in front of the Grey Gallciv, il lhc\ didn't allow me 
to show the tapes. 1 hey said that ihu then would clnsi- llii whole 
"show. "Fiiu\" 1 said, "cloif the uholi* show, but you're not going 
i.) iviiMir ihc tapes." 1 stormed out. went diiecily lo the NYU 
Women's ( enter, and In a lieak of tiniinii, I ran iiuo one of the 
women in the l.ipcs. Wi- decided a leafiet was m oulcr. She made 
the leaflet while 1 uot on the plume, calling as many women as 
came to mind. The leaflet was finished. I o\cr to the local 
\cro\ plai-i ami had 2(H) copies nude up. Within 2(1 minutes of 
stoi iiiin.i; out ol tho (Jury Galli'iv, 1 was handing out the leaflets in 
front of it. I had handed oui lour whcntney"CHANGED their 

Anyway, the tapi-s w civ shown — interesting reactions. Women 
came to me saying that they had never seen another woman's geni- 
tals before, or that they didn't know that other women mastur- 
bated, or how did I get the courage? 

The five TVs were set up in a straight line (bird's eye view) as a 
hypotenuse, with the two adjacent sides being the walls. The tapes 
were started simultaneously. People had to come in to see the tapes 
and sit on the floor (there were small pillows and a rug) next to 
other people. 

It was clear on walking in that the mood of the tapes was seri- 
ous and lively. And after each viewing there usually was a spon- 
taneous discussion; a lot of people had something to say or ask. I 
felt alive and really happy to share the tapes. 



-*0tt TUB 6UVM THAT ,ri -nweoAPHic' Gter pa-una 
-Wauow A STuseMr -n «* me *"**■- ANb YZT 
THEY HMBf/'r EveUSEBfS THE PlECS t»eM-l£L\^X.' 

T»g Mir "apt" Titer mj>**/ 

H£fi& IS *SAFg AM"/ 

Maureen Nappi currently does work using computer animation, combining 
abstract imagery and more explicit sexual material, accompanied by music. 
The Clit Tapes was her first public video installation. 

©1983 Maureen Nappi 




The so-called "communications revolution" has promised 
something for every constituency: perpetual up-to-the-minute re- 
ports for the news junkies; indoor and outdoor soccer for the jocks; 
late-night rock for the Woodstock descendants; quotations on re- 
quest for stockholders; push-button consumption from commodity 
channels; Mexican soaps for the barrios of New York and LA. For 
women, there will be emancipation in the form of entire channels 
full of information and entertainment. The cable feast offers a dish 
for every palate— every palate that can pay, that is. This menu is 
strictly for those that still have jobs and surplus enough to pay the 
monthly cable bills. The "revolution" is in fact an electronic era of 
"supply-side" information that turns the very word communica- 
tion into a euphemism. The main effect of the new technologies is 
a growing information gap — between the information haves and 
the have nots. Which side are women on? 

_/«.£ ±Jnclu±tiy 

Most of the information we get comes from the networks, major 
newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, book publishers, and 
record and movie companies that are wholly owned or subsidiaries 
of the "information giants." 1 The tremendous growth of this sec- 
tor has pushed the communications trans-national corporations 
into the forefront of the expansion of capital. With this expansion, 
more and more of the culture of the world has come under a system 
of domination by these media industries that is more subtle and 
insidious than the British Empire. Indeed, the sun never sets on 
jETor Charlie's Angels. Like the empires of old, the media corpor- 
ations have felt the need to expand or die. This tendency, coupled 
with the world economic crisis, has led them to exact ever greater 
tolls from the population at home. The essence of cable is that it is 
a way to charge for media programming. Audiences have always 
paid for the largest share of the media empire — the equipment to 
receive the signals. They also have paid for programming through 
increased prices on the commodities advertised. 2 With the advent 
of cable, they will pay yet again. Cable is not broadcast. It comes 
into the home through a wire, and as such can be metered and 
charged for. Of course, the glowing predictions of electronic diver- 
sity never mention the price tag. (The third of the U.S. population 
now receiving cable is also receiving monthly information bills — 
soon to be as common as electric or gas statements.) Nor is there 
mention of the fact that this information comes into our homes on 
one wire. However many channels or services, it is owned and pro- 
vided by one source. This fact is obscured by the predictions of a 
70- to 100-channel capacity for the new systems. The "range of 
choice" is often cited as the reason there is no longer a need for air- 
wave regulation. A close look at the reality of the new cable pro- 
gramming should quickly dispel any lingering hopes about the 
emancipatory potential of the cable industry. 


C7£ £ £P> 


USA is a cable programming service that reaches 1600 cable 
systems. Their USA Daytime is described as "women's entertain- 
ment and family service programming." Anticipating flack, their 
brochure opens defensively with a disclaimer: "No, it's not a soap 
opera." That much is true: This is not The Young and the Rest- 
less. The average soap opera is a lot more expensive than the shows 
on this schedule. These formats are talk shows: studio hostesses 
with either a guest or a new kitchen appliance, a classic form of 
cheap TV pioneered by Betty Furness. The guests are mostly "ex- 
perts" and, more often than not, males. They offer technological 
solutions to such perplexing problems as removing dog hair on 
carpets and turning a corner when placing a zipper in do-it-yourself 
upholstery. More intimate problems are handled by Sonya Fried- 
man, a psychologist billed as someone who is searching for "emo- 
tions behind behavior." 

Since celebrities are too expensive for this schedule, the after- 
noon settles for the next best thing: their wives. Called "Are You 
Anybody?" this program reveals "what a woman's life is like when 
her husband is a superstar." Guests slated to appear include Mrs. 
Norman Mailer and Mrs. Howard Cosell. 

Similar in content and identical in name is Daytime, produced 
by Hearst/ABC. The format is four hours of hostesses on the set 
introducing preproduced segments with male experts. Jerry Baker 
offers advice on plants. Dr. Salk gives insight into teenagers. Mr. 
Rogers reassures parents that "You Are Special." This Daytime 
promises to deliver what was requested by the women who filled 
out research questionnaires: shows of "substance and depth." 
Thus, Daytime producers have included a new show called "News- 
week for Women," which covers public affairs in the same depth 
as the magazine. They even tilt at controversy, albeit neatly and 
carefully packaged as "Outrageous Opinions Updated" with 
Helen Gurley Brown. However, while the Newsweek segment gets 
75 minutes of a sample week, food and cooking advice tops the list 
with a total of 92 minutes, and sewing has near parity with 70 
minutes a week. 

The only new elements on these schedules are the chintz sofa 
cover on the set, the hanging macrame planter for the studio fern, 
and the occasional hint of punk in a hostess' overhennaed hairdo. 
Most of these programs amble along the well-worn paths that 
women's magazines have been trudging for 50 years. Not all that 
surprising, since many of the shows on cable are being co-produced 
by these very same magazines: Women's Day, Better Homes and 
Gardens, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, etc. 

Even Ms. has had its cable debut with a program called "She's 
Nobody's Baby, a History of American Women in the 20th Cen- 
tury." Conceived by Suzanne Levine, managing editor of Ms., and 
funded to the tune of $200,000 by Home Box Office, this hour of 
collage history won the George Foster Peabody Award for Excel- 
lence in Journalism in 1982. It was the first time that this award 
was given to something produced specifically for cable. However, 
the success of this program has not engendered a series, or even 
more individual programs like it. Critical acclaim and social use- 
fulness are not ingredients in the program selection process. 

The heavy promotion that surrounded the Ms. HBO show, 
coupled with the fact that there have been some highly visible 
women program executives in the cable arena, generated high 
hopes among women in the creative community. "It was a new 
industry. There were a lot of talented women who had been ready 
to go for a long time," says John Shigekawa, director of New Medi- 
um, a consulting agency that helps independent producers work 
out co-production arrangements with the new technologies. "Some 
of them were refugees from public television or had graduated 
from public television training programs of the sixties and early 
seventies. They were smart women who wanted to work, and they 
were willing to accept salaries that were lower than what men with 
the same experience would accept." 

For a while there were a number of women in key program- 
ming positions. However, as the big dollars moved in, and smaller 
entrepreneurial cable groups were swallowed by the multinationals, 
many of these women found their authority eroded as new layers of 

mostly male executives wedged between them and the system heads 
(mostly male to begin with). Women in acquisition departments, 
who had in the early days of cable been able to pursue some in- 
novative programming ideas, found their decisions reviewed by 
whole echelons of vice-presidents. 

— ffiE <z>£ci£Ll£Lc6. 

Cable executives are proud of what they consider to be a glow- 
ing record of affirmative action in the new industry. They like to 
bring out long lists of all their women managers and programming 
officials. Gracie Nettingham has her own list of statistics — ones 
that give a different picture. She is a researcher with the Office of 
Communications of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the 
founder of Minorities in Cable, a nationwide organization dedi- 
cated to increasing the participation of minorities in the develop- 
ing industry. "The patterns here are the same as those in regular 
broadcasting," she points out. "Women and minorities have made 
very few inroads into technical and managerial positions." Netting- 
ham cites statistics from reports that cable operators must file with 
the FCC. 

Currently, white males hold 57% of all positions and 75% of all 
decision-making posts in cable. While cable employment shot up 
by 14% between 1980 and 1981, minority jobholders increased 
their ranks by only 2%. Women do slightly better in cable than 
they do in broadcast TV or radio, holding 33% of cable jobs in 
1981 compared with 31% of TV and 32% of radio positions. But 
women's placement within cable companies is another story. Sev- 
enty-four percent of all women working in the industry hold cleri- 
cal and office positions. And women hold only 15.5% of positions 
in the top four job categories, compared with 21 % in broadcast TV 
and 22% in radio. 

Minority women are in last place in cable hiring. They hold 
only 5% of cable jobs and less than 2% of the high-level positions. 
Most— 76% — do office or clerical work. Minority men don't fare 
much better. They hold 9% of cable jobs, and their 10% of the 
high-level positions is more likely to be in sales or technical fields 
than in managerial or professional (read — decision-making) areas. 
(See tables for details.) 

"We may have a hard time just getting at these statistics in the 
future," Nettingham warns. "Moves to deregulate at the FCC 
would eliminate the requirement to collect this information." In- 
deed, groups with media reform offices like UCC 3 and the Nation- 
al Organization for Women face an uphill battle in attempting to 
halt deregulation proceedings in communications at the national 
level. They are also working in many local areas to assist citizens' 
groups in the cable franchising process. This has meant creating 
regulations that will make the local cable contracts accountable to 
democratic input. 

Barbara Rochman, a lawyer, is the legislative vice-president of 
the New York NOW Chapter. Active in media reform groups for 
many years, she is currently working to develop good Equal Em- 
ployment Opportunity (EEO) clauses in the franchise agreements 
being negotiated between New York City and the cable companies 
that are waiting to wire the lucrative boroughs of the metropolitan 
area. "We would like to see the franchises carry monitoring re- 
quirements and follow-through procedures in case EEO goals 
aren't met," she explains. "We are working for substantial repre- 
sentation by women and minorities in decision-making positions 
and technical areas." Rochman is also working to generate interest 
in public access: "In the future, the need for access channels will 
grow in importance, especially as active constituents become in- 
volved in programming. Much of the research, organization, and 
outreach work already being done by local women's groups is easily 
translated into access programming." 


As an exploration into possible uses of access, the New York 
NOW office has undertaken a series of programs on access in 
Manhattan. "Women don't need programs on how to sew," asserts 
Rochman. "They need information on how to organize a daycare 


center, how to file a discrimination complaint, how to protect their 
rights in divorce proceedings, and how to take political action to 
insure abortion rights. Our NOW office is constantly getting calls 
about these kinds of questions. This is the kind of information 
we'd like to see cable programming for women provide." 

The NOW chapter in Madison, Wisconsin, was one of the first 
to latch onto cable access as a forum for their activities. Carol 
Sundstrom produces a regular series, which began in January 
1981. "The Madison project has two goals: to train and encourage 
women to participate in the media and to regularly produce and 
air programs on women's issues." The programs have ranged from 
politics to dance. Their most popular show is a documentary on 
house-husbands in the Madison area. Sundstrom's success has in- 
spired other Wisconsin NOW chapters, and they are forming three 
other producing entities at access centers in the state. The four 
cities will exchange programs and hold joint training workshops. 

What might an ideal schedule for women be? Two examples of 
series that were directed to and produced by women are: Woman 
Alive and Womanvision. Both used large amounts of independent- 
ly produced segments. Woman Alive, a public television series, was 
produced by Joan Shigekawa from 1974 to 1978. The variety of 
topics is evident from the contents of a typical show (#5 in the first 
series): (1) Charlotte Zwerwin's film Women ofMcCaysville Indus- 
tries, about a group of Georgia women who have set up their own 
sewing factory; (2) Holly Near, singing three of her own songs; 
(3) Eleanor Holmes Norton, NYC Commissioner of Human Rights, 
looking at women and the recession. 

The series was dropped when Shigekawa found it impossible to 
garner corporate support — then, as now, a prerequisite for the so- 
called public airwaves. "American business has huge investments 
in the old way of viewing women," explains Shigekawa. "Images of 
women cooking and spending are acceptable. The active, creative, 
independent women who peopled Woman Alive were another mat- 
ter." When one corporation did offer money, PBS rejected the 
offer on the grounds that there was a conflict of interest. The cor- 
poration was Ortho, of birth control pill fame. (PBS doesn't have 
any problem with the major oil companies sponsoring the 
"MacNeil-Lehrer Report.") 

Such questions of propriety are absent from the cable world, 
where Bristol Myers, for instance, not only advertises on but is also 
co-producer of the USA Daytime health show "Alive and Well." 
Shigekawa's difficult search for corporate sponsors doesn't bode 
well for the possibility of finding funds either as co-production 
money or advertising revenue for programs that challenge the 
dominant stereotyped media images of women. Advertisers stay 
away from controversy. The Woman Alive experience suggests that 
positive images per se are controversial. 

Controversy is something that many independent producers 
thrive on. Thousands of productions have been generated by the 
independent film and video community in the past 10 years. This is 
one area in which women have been central — both in front and 
behind the camera. From Barbara Kopple's Harlan County to Julia 
Reichert's Union Maids to Connie Fields' Rosie the Riveter, the 
body of independent work for and by women is a neglected source 
of programming. Kitty Morgan, director of Independent Cinema 
Artists and Producers (ICAP), has worked at marketing independ- 
ent work to cable for years. In 1978 she curated a series for Man- 
hattan Cable called Womanvision. Programs included a film on 
four folk artists from the Deep South, a verite portrait of a subur- 
ban wedding by Debra Franco, and Claudia Weil's early film on 
China. The programs were well received, but Morgan was disap- 
pointed when other systems didn't pick up the series. Critical ac- 
claim and even veiwer enthusiasm have no effect on the bottom 

Other models come from the access realm. Civil rights activist 
Flo Kennedy understood early on about the opportunity that pub- 
lic access provided. She has produced a weekly show on Manhattan 
Cable for over five years, and has a loyal and committed constitu- 
ency. Her shows are occasionally shown on other access systems in 
other inner-cities. 

Another series enjoying local popularity is Nancy Cain's "Night 
Owl Show" on the community access channel in Woodstock, New 


Shirley Robson, host of From Washington: Citizen Alert," on Daytime. 
Photo courtesy Hearst/ABC. 

York. The show consistently provides innovative programming by 
and for women. Though not promoted as "women's program- 
ming," Cain uses a lot of material that could be categorized as 
such because of her sensibility to and consciousness of women's 
issues. Selections from a recent program include a docu-drama 
exploring the Cinderella myth that was staged in the ladies' room 
of a local restaurant; performing artist Linda Montano, dressed as 
a nun, giving instructions on teeth brushing; and biker/feminist/ 
poet Teresa Costa belting out her punk poetry to the accompani- 
ment of shattering glass. 

-Jfl£ <£tiuggL£. 

Public access becomes increasingly important as we recognize 
in the cable "revolution" the same old stereotypes long perpetrated 
by soaps, sitcoms, and commercials. But access is constantly 
threatened by deregulation efforts that would obviate local agree- 
ments. Before women can make new programming, they will need 
to become media activists committed to a real communications 

revolution. Certainly the burgeoning of the cable industry has cre- 
ated rising expectations. Cable has excited the ambitions and 
hopes of thousands of talented and active women all over the coun- 
try. Suzanne Levine was enthusiastic about the community of 
women working in cable that she encountered while touring with 
her production of "Century of Women," the Ms. special. Levine 
made many presentations to groups affiliated with a national or- 
ganization called Women in Cable. (Most big cities have a chapter; 
the New York chapter has over 700 women.) "I'd go to a meeting 
in Iowa," Levine comments, "and there would be 50 energetic and 
sophisticated women. Those women are ready for action. They 
want to do meaningful work, and they think that cable is where 
they can do it." 

What the future holds for these hopeful women will depend on 
where they and their organization go. So far, many of the chapters 
have become the ladies' auxiliaries to the industry: hostessing lav- 
ish banquets for the mostly male corporate officers and industry 
biggies. Will women in cable be willing to challenge the status quo 
and forge structures within this still-forming industry that can give 
real power and support to women on both ends of the wire? Or do 
women in the U.S. need a "New Information Order," similar to 
that being demanded by many Third World countries — whose 
leaders realize that information is power and that communication 
issues are central to the struggle to overcome domination. 

1. See Herbert Schiller's The Mind Managers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973) 
for a prescient description of the current phenomenon. 

2. Dallas Smythe has documented the formation of audiences as commodi- 
ties. His most recent book is: Dependency Road: Class, Culture and Com- 
munication in Canada (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1982). 

3. The UCC has published the best book about cable: a short primer by 
Jennifer Stearns called A Short Course in Cable (UCC Office of Communi- 
cations, 105 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016). 

DeeDee Halleck is a media activist and an independent film- and video- 
maker in New York City. She produces a weekly public access cable TV 
show about communications called "Paper Tiger TV." 

Carole Glasser is a Brooklyn poet, recently published in the Centennial 
Review, North Dakota Review, and Partisan Review. 

Horror J #ie 

A few recent cliches are all the props needed 

to shoot the scene and at the slightest stimulation 

there is the automatic response of the body. 

As to mild electric shocks the thighs twitch 

like frogs' legs in the obligatory rhythm 

lifesize, lifelike, the bodies flash an embrace 

across the screen, squeaking they rub 

against each other and bounce off 

again like taut balloons. 

A brush of the actor's hand across 

the actress' cheek uncovers a remnant 

smile buried in her hair but her 

voice lifts and with a stock phrase 

adjusts it to the proper grimace. 

They have grown the fangs and claws 

deemed necessary for the performance 

of Lust and Lycanthropy. 

The better to howl with, my dear. 

Poem byErika Miliziano, who has published in literary 
magazines and anthologies and is currently translating a 
^contemporary American poet into German. 

; ©1983 Erika Miliziano 

\" UJken one allien fouck u/q$ cl.II i~f tooK... 

(the extraterrestrial consort) 

Cartoon by Su Friedrich 


IQj*4 "f'€>vv\*<*\^&X '4-\U*^ K^jhjisfGL ^u_ HM^at. ^-^fi^vucayviAi 


German women filmmakers find them- 
selves in a peculiar bind when it comes to 
defining their work against dominant 
modes of patriarchal cinema. Like all in- 
dependent filmmakers, they are confront- 
ing Goliath- — the hegemony of Hollywood 
and its Common Market subsidiaries. Be- 
yond the domain of commercial control, 
however, in the precarious enclave of fed- 
eral subsidies and TV co-productions, 
women filmmakers encounter the competi- 
tion of a whole troop of Davids, already 
firmly entrenched in the field. It has be- 
come commonplace in discussions on con- 
temporary German cinema to cite its 
unique legal and economic substructure as 
one of the keys to its artistic success and 
international visibility. It is equally com- 
mon, though much less acknowledged, 
that women filmmakers are conspicuously 
absent from the pantheon of New German 
auteurs. The American-styled New Ger- 
man Cinema canonizes names like Wer- 
ner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 
Wim Wenders, and Volker Schlondorff, 
but rarely extends to Ula Stockl, Helke 
Sander, Jutta Bruckner, or Ulrike Ottin- 
ger. In New York the Museum of Modern 
Art's 1982-83 series of "Recent Films from 
West Germany," which prides itself on 
featuring lesser-known directors, did not 
include a single film directed by a woman 
— a glaring omission even if judged only by 
the enormous increase of women's produc- 
tions in recent years. 

Yet German women filmmakers are pri- 
marily involved in a struggle on the domes- 
tic front. Competing with both commercial 
cinema and the established male avant- 
garde, women filmmakers face tremendous 
problems financing their films and often 
incur considerable personal debts; only 
gradually have they succeeded in tapping 
the same system of federal grants and sub- 
sidies that advanced their male colleagues. 
Meanwhile, a large number of films direct- 
ed by women are being co-produced by 
German television stations — a form of 
subsidy that guarantees access yet also 
tends to impose artistic and political re- 
strictions via production guidelines and 
program committees. 

The effect of not-naming is censorship, 
whether caused by the imperialism of 
patriarchal language or the underdevel- 
opment of a feminist language. We 
need to begin analyzing our own films, 
but first it is necessary to learn to speak 
in our own name. l 


The search for a feminist language in 
film, a language that would transcend the 
patriarchal terms of sexual difference, is 
not exactly facilitated by the existence of a 
more or less established male avant-garde. 
The peculiar history of German cinema 
complicates the oedipal scenario of avant- 
garde protest which feminist film theory 
and practice seek to displace. The Cinema 
of the Fathers, representing commercial 
interests, is one of Stepfathers and Grand- 
fathers at best; the Cinema of the Sons, at 
least in some of its representatives, is less 
concerned with conquering the interna- 
tional domain of Art than with applying its 
artistic efforts to the political transforma- 
tion of the West German public sphere. As 
German women filmmakers are learning 
"to speak in [their] own name," they too 
are engaged in building an oppositional 
public sphere, linking the women's move- 
ment to female theatergoers and TV audi- 
ences across the country. Like their male 
colleagues, women filmmakers confront 
the key contradiction in store for all coun- 

What you read in Frauen 
und Film is almost never 
quite right, but it sharp- 
ens your focus. 

— Gertrude Koch 

terhegemonic film practice: how to develop 
an autonomous discourse while, at the 
same time, establishing, maintaining, and 
increasing rapport with an audience. 

In both the work of "naming" and the 
construction of a public sphere essential to 
a feminist film culture, the journal Frauen 
und Film (FuF — Women and Film) has 
played and, I hope, will continue to play a 
crucial role. Founded by filmmaker Helke 
Sander (REDUPERS; The Subjective Fac- 
tor) in 1974, FuF stands as the first and 
only European feminist film journal. Pub- 
lished by Rotbuch Verlag in Berlin as a 
quarterly (beginning with #7), the journal 
is into its 34th issue. Sander signed as 
FuF's sole editor up to #27 (February 
1981); withthat issue, editorial responsi- 
bility shifted to collectives in Berlin, Frank- 
furt, Cologne, and Paris. Last July, the 
Berlin collective decided to discontinue the 
journal, thus causing the publisher to with- 
draw. Meanwhile, the Frankfurt collective 
formed a new editorial board and linked 

up with Verlag Roter Stern in Frankfurt, 
which will publishFwF on a biannual basis. 
I will not go into the Berlin/Frankfurt split 
which bears only remote resemblance to 
the separation of the Camera Obscura col- 
lective from Women and Film in 1974. 
Suffice it to say that, with the continuation 
of FuF, feminist film culture has salvaged 
a centerpiece of its organizational sub- 
structure, a vital platform not only for 
issues of strategy, exchange of information, 
and critical discussion but also for the 
articulation and revision of feminist theo- 
ries of film. 

The program of FuF, as outlined in #6 
(1975), lists two major objectives: (a) "to 
analyze the workings of patriarchal culture 
in cinema"; (b) "to recognize and name 
feminist starting points in film and develop 
them further." The first objective requires 
a critical analysis of existing cinema in all 
its aspects: film politics and economics, 
film theory and criticism, as well as the 
discourse of its products — in short, a com- 
prehensive critique of patriarchal cinema. 
The second complex includes the relation- 
ship between women's cinema and the 
women's movement, the rediscovery of 
earlier women filmmakers, the current 
situation of women working in film and 
other media, textual analyses, and the 
question of a feminine/feminist aesthetics. 

FuF's critique of patriarchal structures 
in New German Cinema can be traced on 
three different levels. On the level of the 
institutional framework, FuF calls atten- 
tion to the inequities of the subsidy system 
which extends privileges to already suc- 
cessful directors rather than individual 
projects. Women are grossly underrepre- 
sented in the committees that decide on 
grants and awards — hence the political 
stress on the demand for equal representa- 
tion. The standards of professionalism by 
which these committees tend to rationalize 
their decisions also discourage collective 
and nonhierarchic modes of production, 
thus pitting women filmmakers not only 
against male directors but also against 
each other. Financial support from TV 
stations, a primary source for women's 
films, is tied to production codes that re- 
strict the critical treatment of issues cru- 
cial to a feminist film practice — abortion, 
female sexuality, marriage. The mechan- 
isms of public reception further ensure 

©1983 Miriam Hansen 

that patriarchal imbalance persists even in 
a protectionist film culture: Festivals, press 
conferences, reviews again and again con- 
firm FuF's contention that male arbiters 
still control the representation of women in 
German cinema. This control includes the 
token acclaim granted by male critics to 
some women filmmakers but not to others 
as well as the liberal endorsement of the 
new "woman's film." 

On yet another level of critique, femi- 
nist analysis focuses on the notion of "in- 
visible labor." FuF programmatically de- 
votes itself to the work of women in the 
media whose names disappear behind the 
name of the male auteur. A chief offender 
in this respect is undoubtedly Werner Her- 
zog, who may give public credit to his cam- 
eramen but never to Beate Mainka-Jelling- 
haus, probably the best editor that Ger- 
man cinema has ever had. 2 Fu.F's efforts 
to render invisible labor visible range from 
identifying editors and producers to script- 
writers and collaborators (see the inter- 
views with M. von Trotta, Gisela Tuchten- 
hagen, and Danielle Huillet). 

On a third — and actually the least con- 
spicuous level — FuF criticizes patriarchal 
cinema's products. The analysis of male- 
directed films concentrates on the new 
wave of so-called "women's films" as the 
commercial response to the women's move- 
ment. In this context, we find reviews of 
Fassbinder's Effi Briest and Peter Hand- 
ke's The Left-Handed Woman alongside 
reviews of foreign films featuring the alleg- 
ed New Woman. The stars of New Ger- 
man Cinema, however, remain predictably 
marginal to FuF's discussions: Herzog is 
represented only with a review of Nosfera- 
tu; Wenders, except for a recent interview 
concerning Lightning over Water, is fea- 
tured with a single quote from Kings of the 
Road, "the story about the absence of wom- 
en which is at the same time the story of 
the desire that wants them to be present." 
The photograph heading these lines shows 
the depopulated arena of the German 
Bundestag (parliament). The only male 
filmmaker given more extensive discussion 
space in FuF is Alexander Kluge, a direc- 
tor whose professed concern with "wom- 
en's topics" has provoked feminist reac- 

tions ranging from severe polemics to mea- 
sured ambivalence. 

In the search for a feminist discourse in 
film, for modes of perception and produc- 
tion other than those circumscribed by 
patriarchal codes, FuF again and again 
encounters the difficulties of definition, of 
appropriating useful forms of resistance 
while asserting difference against coopta- 
tion. Consider, for example, the long- 
standing discussion on the principle of col- 
lectivity, starting with a special focus on 
collective production in #8 (1976). On the 
one hand, collectivity remains a Utopian 
goal that fueled the women's movement, a 
weapon against the hierarchy, competition, 
and isolation imposed by patriarchal 
modes of production. On the other hand, 
the notion of collectivity may itself turn 
into an ideology when it is used to justify 
dilettantism, false harmony, and the ex- 
ploitation of allegedly poorly qualified 
labor. Furthermore, the idea of collabora- 
tive film projects has been marketed by a 
group of male filmmakers (including Fass- 
binder, Kluge, and Schlondorff), mostly to 
the exclusion of women directors. Together 
with a devastating review of Germany in 
Autumn, FuF Sprints an open letter signed 
by feminist film workers and activists, con- 
demning the most saving claim of the film 
— its collective intervention at a time of 
political crisis — as an arrogant and hypo- 
critical gesture which effectively denies 
similar efforts on the part of filmmakers of 
lesser means and reputations. In the same 
issue of FuF (#16), however, Sander, in an 
essay on "Film Politics as Politics of Pro- 
duction," refers to Germany in Autumn as 
a viable model for collaborative projects on 
a feminist basis. 

When FuF advocates a "politics of pro- 
duction" or discusses "forms of produc- 
tion" from a feminist perspective, the term 
"production" has to be understood in the 
widest possible sense. As indicated, FuF 
has programmatically presented the work 
of women editors, cinematographers, and 
producers — each the focus of an individual 
issue. Similarly, it devoted a special issue 
to the "visible" woman — the actress. The 
work of naming — of making public — in- 
cludes the creation of a countertradition of 
women directors, ranging from Leontine 
Sagan, Maya Deren, Marguerite Duras, 
and Vera Chytilova to filmmakers of a 
younger generation such as Valie Export, 
Elfi Mikesch, Margaret Raspe, and Pola 
Reuth. Beyond these traditional branches 
of film production, however, FuF's discus- 
sion of forms of production encompasses 
the production of the very experience that 
requires a feminist film practice: the 
gender-specific mediation of all percep- 
tion. In this vein, a special issue on women 
spectators bypasses psychoanalytic theo- 
ries of reception in favor of documenting 
traces of authentic experience within and 
against the grain of patriarchal conditions 
of spectatorship. 3 Similarly, issues on les- 
bian cinema, pornography, and eroticism 
investigate the production of images that 

inscribe women's experience of their bodies 
and sexuality in a double structure of re- 
pression and subversion. 

In its theoretical positions, articulated 
primarily by Helke Sander and Gertruc 
Koch, FuF shares the skepticism voiced in 
German feminist theory by Silvia Boven- 
schen and Ulrike Prokop 4 — adamantly 
opposed to feminine essentialism, yet more 
Utopian and at the same time more icono- 
clastic than psychoanalytic-semiological 
directions of cinefeminism. While the 
"Parisian perspective," to use Ruby Rich's 
charming phrase, has made its way into 
FuF in the shape of translations and con- 
ference reports, its reception is counter- 
balanced by a notion of radical subjectivity 
that clearly betrays the influence of the 
Frankfurt School. Following this tradition, 
the theoretical search for the aesthetic di- 
mension of feminist film practice inevitably 
entails a critical interaction with patri- 
archal film culture in its most complex 
instances — in the political and aesthetic 
avant-garde of male cinema. 

1. B. Ruby Rich, "In the Name of Feminist Film 
Criticism," Heresies, no. 9 (1980), p. 78. 

2. Thanks to Ruby Rich for remembering an oc- 
casion on which, for once, he did: "My editor, 
Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, is very important to 
me, and I would say that without her I would be 
only a shadow of myself. But there's always an 
enormous struggle going on between the two of 
us, and it's very strange how she behaves during 
this process. She's very rude with me, and she 
expresses her opinions in a manner that is like 
the most mediocre housewife" ("Images at the 
Horizon," workshop at Facet Multimedia Cen- 
ter, Chicago, April 17, 1979). 

3. The only essays translated so far are Sander's 
"Feminism and Film" and Koch's "Why Wom- 
en Go to the Movies," in Jump Cut, no. 27 
(1982), pp. 49-53. 

4. For Bovenschen, see, "Is There a Feminine 
Aesthetic?" New German Critique, no. 10 
(1977), pp. 111-137, and "The Contemporary 
Witch, the Historical Witch and the Witch 
Myth," NGC, no. 15 (1978), pp. 83-119. NGC 
no. 13 (1978), an issue on the German women's 
movement, contains a translation from Prokop's 
book Weiblicher Lebenszusammenhang (Frank- 
furt: Suhrkamp, 1976). 

Miriam Hansen teaches film studies at Rutgers 
University, has published articles on feminist 
film theory, and has contributed work to Frauen 
und Film. 



A D 

Micki McGee 

Excerpts from Catholic Girl in a Calvinized World 

At the four-second point in this particular Calvin Klein jeans com- 
mercial, if you were playing the tape in slow motion, you would see 
a loose thread dangling from the hem of the jeans Brooke Shields 
wears as she swings her leg down across the frame. If you were 
viewing at the normal 30 frames per second you would miss the 
loose thread and be taken in by the apparent perfection of the shot 
as the camera pans up Brooke's legs. I imagine it would be possible 
to produce an article not unlike this commercial — a seamless essay 
carefully woven to conceal any confusion. You should be more sus- 
picious reading such writing than I am hesitant to impose a linear 
analysis on this overdetermined image. Let's proceed in a some- 
what nonlinear fashion— after the fashion of the tailor taking apart 
a garment — pulling at loose threads and laying out the pieces to 
reveal the pattern that gives form to the garment. 

". . .etymology, as it is used in daily life, is to be considered not so 
much as scientific fact as a rhetorical form, the illicit use of histori- 
cal causality to support the drawing of logical consequences." 

— Frederic Jameson, The Prison-House of Language (p. 6) 

When Jameson wrote this in 1972, it's doubtful that he could have 

tion is the name of the company that contracted with Calvin Klein 
to manufacture the designer's jeans. "The company used to limp 
along making low and moderate priced dresses for what Seventh 
Avenue calls 'the masses with fat asses.' That all changed in 1977." 
Puritan's president Carl Rosen said, "God caused his countenance 
to shine upon me to do a license with Calvin Klein" (Forbes, Feb- 
ruary 15, 1982, p. 34). 

"Independent retailers and Klein's own boutiques in London, 
Tokyo and Milan will sell $750 million worth of his products in 

1982 While much of the country struggled through economic 

doldrums in 1981, Calvin Klein had a personal income of $8.5 mil- 
lion." — People Magazine (January 18, 1982, p. 94) 

Calvin Klein doesn't live the frugal lifestyle demanded by the 16th- 
century theologian, but then neither is he living during a period of 
primitive accumulation of capital. Parsimony on par with the early 
Puritans is unnecessary in this era of consolidated capital. None- 
theless, note the curious metonymy between the Calvinist's pleas- 
ureless accumulation of wealth and the "look-but-don't-touch" 
sexuality of Brooke Shields.* Brooke has amassed considerable 

B8^y'' : -'' 

« a 

*. £ -aim -t ,»■* ■■ • 



'i SI 

§§?&■;'.• «B 

mssmt --1 

<■ * S£ 


^ i -^«igi 


k 1 


'**%. ";>^^^^S^SWjB 

Ik. '■' ' :: -S 

The camera pans slowly up Brooke 's legs as she readjusts herself into a squatting position and pores over an oversized dictionary. Brooke 
(quietly, as though talking to herself): "I wonder if it's a person. . . C. . . C—A—L. . . CAL. . .from the Greek kalos— 'beautiful. ' Vin— 
from the Latin vincere— 'to conquer. ' Cal—vin: beautiful conqueror. " 

imagined the advent of designer jeans, let alone a commercial re- 
volving around an invented etymology of a designer's name. Keep- 
ing in mind the rhetorical nature of etymology, let's consider what 
else it might mean to be "Calvinized." Calvin could just as easily 
be derived from the Latin calor for "heat" and the Latin venire for 
"to come"- — a pun not likely to have been overlooked in the art 
director's drawing room. But even more interesting than the sexual 
double-entendre, particularly when evoking historical causality, 
is to consider what it would actually mean to be Calvinized. From 
the Oxford English Dictionary: "Calvinize. To follow Calvin, to 
teach Calvinism. Hence Calvinized. Calvinizing." 
Calvinism, according to Max Weber's often-disputed thesis The 
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, supplies the "moral 

energy and drive of the capitalist entrepreneur The element of 

ascetic self-control in worldly affairs is certainly there in other 
Puritan sects also; but they lack the dynamism of Calvinism." 
Their impact, Weber suggests, is mainly upon the formation of a 
moral outlook "enhancing labour discipline within the lower and 
middle levels of capitalist economic organization." For Weber, the 
essence of the spirit of modern capitalism lies in the desire to "ac- 
cumulate wealth for its own sake rather than for the material re- 
wards that it can serve to bring. . . . The entrepreneurs associated 
with the development of rational capitalism combine the impulse 
to accumulate with a positively frugal lifestyle." 

Abandon the. idea of coincidence. The Puritan Fashion Corpora- 

sexual exchange value as the woman-child you'll never have or 
never be. Think of each desiring or covetous gaze as currency. 

Scavullo on Shields: "The camera loves her and she loves the cam- 
era — whether it's a still or a movie. The magic, the mystique — it 
ddesn't happen by training. Some people can work for a million 
years and never get it." 

—"Brooke's Own Beauty Book," Bazaar (August 1981, p. 185) 

While the Protestant merchant class amassed capital on the site 
of production, Shields amasses capital at the site of consumption. 
As the sexual equivalent of the parsimonious Protestant merchant, 
she accumulates a libidinal fortune while the world of supermarket 
weeklies waits for her to expend some small portion of her wealth. 


— National Examiner (August 31, 1982) 

— Weekly World (September 21, 1982) 

In the spectacle world of eroticized products and commodified sex, 
Brooke's desirability is readily transformed in legal tender. Her 
appearance in the Calvin Klein commercials paid her half a mil- 
lion dollars as the 1981 sales of Calvins leveled off at $245 million. 

* We can't presume to know anything about Brooke Shields as a person, 
since she exists for most people only as an image. 

©1982 Micki McGee 

When Brooke entered junior high school, she was already earning 
$30,000 a year and for tax purposes her mother had formed a 
paper company in her name. She was no longer just a child, nor 
even just a child actress. She was Brooke Shields, Inc.— and the 
only thing still private about her life was the list of stockholders in 
this unusual firm that packaged and distributed only one product: 
Brooke Shields. 

"The commercials themselves— combined with all the press cover- 
age the morality war generated— brought sixty-five million dollars 
to Puritan Fashions, a sales increase of three hundred percent." 
—Jason Bonderoff, Brooke, An Unauthorized Biography 

If you were anything like me you were one of those alienated kids 
who read compulsively. You would read anything from historical 
fiction to chemistry' manuals. Once in a while, though surprisingly 
seldom, you'd come across a word that you didn't know and 
couldn't figure out from the sentence. Barely looking up from the 
page, you might ask your mother, "Hey Mom, what does 'ravaged' 
mean?" "What?" "What does 'ravaged' mean?" And she'd say, 
"Ask your father. " So you'd go into the other room where your 
father was watching television and you'd say, "Hey Dad, what does 
'ravaged' mean?" And he'd look up from his newspaper and say, 
"Why don't you look it up— that's what we have that dictionary 
for. "So you'd walk over to the bookcase that held the two-volume 
dictionary and the Great Books of the Western World and you'd 
remove the second volume of the dictionary. "Ravage: devastate, 
plunder, make havoc, n. destructive force of." You have the defini- 
tion, but it still doesn't make any sense because you are reading 

"The marks made by the branding iron, about three inches in 
height and half that in width, had been burned into the flesh as 
though by a gouging tool and were almost half an inch deep. The 
lightest stroke of a finger revealed them." 

—Pauline Reage, The Story of O (p. 163) 

Brooke isn't bound with leather — her restraint is the denim of 
skin-tight jeans. She doesn't receive the branded "S" of Sir Stephen 
that O receives, she has instead the label with Calvin's name on her 
right buttock. 

"On a network talk show Calvin revealed the thread that really 

holds his jeans empire together. 'The tighter they are, the better 

they sell.' 

"When they [Brooke and her mother Teri] moved to New Jersey 

both of them began attending a nearby Catholic church every 


— Jason Bonderoff , Brooke, An Unauthorized Biography 

Not long after Richard Avedon directed the Calvin Klein jeans 
commercials he went on to photograph a nude Nastassia Kinski 
intertwined with a boa constrictor, with the serpent's tongue ad- 
jacent to her ear. The imagery of Eden is ushered back and Nastas- 
sia and Brooke are brunette and blonde flip sides of a coin: Brooke 
with a dictionary between her legs and Nastassia with the snake. 
Avedon has capitalized on dangerous knowledge/dangerous sex. 

Catholic girls— like Brooke, like me— are members of a religion 
with magical invocations. When a person with authority, a priest, 
makes a statement — "This is my body, this is my blood"— he's 

(Closing dictionary and turning to the camera): "So that's what happened to me [wide-eyed look of surprise]— I've been Calvinized ' 
Freeze frame on close-up of Brooke s face. Titles fade up. Male announcer's voiceover: "Tops and Jeans by Calvin Klein " 
Photos taken from TV by Micki McGee. 

■one of those cheap historical novels that your mother worries might 
be a bit beyond your years. This one 's set in Biblical times. Ravage: 
devastate, plunder, make havoc. You are puzzled. How does this 
apply to Mary Magdalene? You're not sure, but you know it's not 

So when you see Brooke with her dictionary— if you're at all like 
me — what is invoked is that confusion, powerlessness, and de- 
sire to have access to knowledge and power which at each thumb 
index seem to evade your grasp. The words are there, the defini- 
tions are adjacent, but somehow there is an inexorable gap between 
definition and use. 

A prepubescent beauty squatting over a dictionary with her pos- 
terior at eye level murmurs, "I've been Calvinized," registering 
sequential expressions of discovery, pleasure, and that wide-eyed 
look most often associated with terror. Given her cant, "sodom- 
ized" might be a more appropriate word for her research. Domina- 
tion via the authority of the dictionary (submission to the imposi- 
tion of linguistic order) is overlaid with an all but stated sexual 
domination. The girl- woman at the moment of pleasure in discov- 
ery, power via knowledge, announces with an ambiguous expres- 
sion that she's been conquered. The pleasure of discovery is im- 
mediately transformed into the pleasure of submission. 

In each of the Calvin Klein commercials Brooke is tightly enclosed 
m the frame — girl in a cathode cage. 

said to transform matter. Transubstantiation: A statement be- 
comes a physical truth via the voice of authority. To wish, desire, 
or covet is as sinful as to act from desire or covetousness. Catholi- 
cism: A religion in which the distinction between representation 
and reality, thought and action, is continually obscured. 

The written word allows for the split between mind and body on 
which Christian religions base their theology. You can be present 
(via a note, a letter, or in the 20th century the answering machine) 
yet physically absent. Reading allows you to experience someone 
else's thoughts, ideas, and personal history in their absence. What 
do Calvins allow you to experience? 

THE BODY." -Calvin Klein ad 

So if reading is submission to the order and authority of language, 
albeit an often pleasurable submission, then wearing Calvins is 
submission to another signifying system wherein the commodity 
stands for sexuality in the absence of another. Like the Catholic's 
obfuscation of reality and representation, the latter-day Calvinist 
obscures the distinction between sexuality and the spectacle of 

Micki McGee is an artist and critic whose work has appeared in Fuse, 
Afterimage, and Jumpcut. 










Jo Vaughn Brown wants to make $100 an hour working in the 
industry. So do I, ideally, putting in about eight to 16 hours per 
week. Brown is an 18-year-old Black woman studying video at 
Downtown Community TV and the Satellite Academy, an alterna- 
tive public high school on the Lower East Side. She likes making 
documentaries that deal with prisons, junkies* .-prostitutes, and 
businessmen. As yet she is not sure whether she wants to operate 
camera, edit, or produce. The suggestion of working with compu- 
ters makes her a little nervous. Her financial parameters, however, 
have been clearly established. 

The class outline for Satellite's video program reads like a 
production schedule. Along with developing camera/skills, they 
plan to discuss "ideas for getting our documentary shown on cable, 
ABC — what the networks are interested in." They have the con- 
tacts. They've made the connections. 

Two hours northwest of Scranton in the Pennsylvania country- 
side, Mimi Martin, a 53-year-old video artist, supports herself 
restoring furniture and teaching video to high school students. Her 
imagery deals with what she considers the narrative dream, That 
imagery is constructed on an estimated $20,000 %^inch post-pro- 
duction system, partially built by hand in collaboration with David 
Jones of the Experimental TV Center in Oswego, New York. Work- 
ing one day a week for two years, they constructed a sequencer, 
keyer, comparitor, frame buffer, function generator, computet^ 
interface, and colorizer. 

Martin links her isolation from city life with the spirituals 
approach she takes in her artmaking process: "I lived in New York 
a total of six or seven years. The intensity was too much for me. I 
can barely cope with the excitement of the sticks . . . thinking about 
the reviewer or meeting the right person puts a strain on my aes- 
thetic sensibility. I don't want to hustle my art because I want my 
tapes to have power and feeling, using my intuition and following 
what's most meaningful to me." 

Pennsylvania is where the concept of cable TV was first ap- 
plied, in 1948, enabling farm communities to receive broadcast 
signals from Philadelphia TV stations. Now, one of Martin's high 
school students has developed his own device to unscramble sub- 
scription cable services: 





As former National Sales Director for United Artists, Liv 
Wright negotiated the licensing of features films to. pay television 
'exhibitors. She was a "little girl from Harlem doing Beverly Hills." 
Her basic model of the marketplace; of capitalism, ofselling wares, 
falls into two categories: vendors or suppliers-^-the Bloomingdale's 
analogy. In the retail business, vendors have names like Calvin 
Klein. In the motion picture business; where there are only six 
vinajor. studios, they :are called suppliers. It's a finite universe, like 
the television networks; If there were equal distribution, with six 
studios vying for a three billion dollar business, each would get 
$506 rhillion apiece^-but distribution is not equal. "The first thing 
you want to make sure you get is $500 million and one dollar," 
states Wright. "One dollar more than the next guy, that's all." 



Bloomingdale's becomes an exhibitor like Home Box Office. If 
a studio produces 10 feature films in one year and offers the entire 
package to HBO, it's like Calvin Klein offering Bloomingdale's his 
entire line of wares. If Bloomingdale's wants to carry only one 
item, that's cherry-picking. "So if a studio like Paramount has one 
successful blockbuster and nine turkeys, it doesn't matter," ex- 
plains Wright. "That package has to be sold at X amount of 

Entertainment subsidiaries follow specific formulas to ensure a 
predetermined profit margin'for parent corporations, like Gulf+ 
Western. What was once a product-oriented environment has 
evolved into a market-oriented environment. Quality is not the 
primary factor for success in the competitive marketplace. "The 
expectation of the number X is now a function that comes from a 
very distant place. It does not come from the bottom up," notes 

My secret fantasy is to turn old in the desert, grow a little herb 
garden, and operate a satellite channel telecasting nothing but TV 
snow. I'll call it ZNTV. Maybe no one will ever receive the tele- 
casts. Maybe the channel will be on a distant planet. Every once in 
a while I'll roll a Brooke Shields ad selling Calvin Klein jeans at 

©1983 Joan Jubela 

The reality of cable and satellite technology has suggested the 
possibility of turning TV from a finite universe into an infinite 
universe by diversifying the marketplace. Since December 1982, 
HBO, the largest pay-TV exhibitor, has been producing its own 
movies. Bloomingdale's is supplying itself with its own wares. It is 
no longer dependent on Calvin Klein. In response to HBO's recent 
move, major studios and other pay exhibitors are pooling their 
forces. "Hollywood is also cranking up to take another shot at 
getting a bigger slice of the pay TV pie. Warner Amex Satellite 
Entertainments Movie Channel just signed a deal with MCA Para- 
mount and Warner Bros.. . .$20 million. . . $4 million. . .$10 mil- 
lion. . .$4 million. . .$3.3 million. . .$11 million" (Millimeter, Jan- 
uary 1983). 

The numbers, those rolling numbers, and I'm not talking 
about the I Ching. ■*««» 

At present Wright is working outside of what she considers the 
paternal castle of the corporate world, conducting media consul- 
tancy work as well as producing cable programming. Using her 
marketing experience, she has undertaken such projects as attempt- 
ing to procure television rights for the distribution of Black feature 
films. "Because I was very political during the '60s, I might be able 
to bring more to market analysis than just numbers, like knowing 
that the median age of Blacks is 25 and the median age of His- 
panics is 18," she comments. "Madison Avenue doesn't need to 
know that to accomplish their objectives. I do because I want to be 
a little more creative." 

From the producing angle, Wright and a partner have com- 
pleted a pilot for a fashion series: "We were looking for borderline 
Soho types who were maybe getting a couple of pieces into Bendels 
and were about ready to cross over into a mainstream kind of thing." 
When asked how she raised capital, Wright explained two me- 
thods: Find people in a similar business who need the product and 
are prepared to offer financing in exchange for some form of dis- 
tribution rights, or seek out venture capitalists who are willing to 
collect their investment downstream. "Go to 25 dentists and say, 
'Listen, give me 50 grand,' or whatever, depending on what their 
investment package looks like. For tax reasons, they may need to 
lose money that year." «g ft» 

My mind drifts to my mouth and all the work I had done at the 
New York University dental clinic last year. A place crawling with 
budding young dentists, budding young investors. Ten years down- 
stream, 250 dentists at 50 grand apiece equals a million and a 
quarter. With that amount of money I could make my own version 
of Girlfriends. 


"With television and popular music, there's a lot of junk 
around," comments video artist Dara Birnbaum. "I can't watch 
most of what's on TV and I probably find it offensive, yet I know I 
have it like a sugar habit." 

Two years ago Birnbaum received a Nielson survey in the mail 
asking her to record her viewing habits. Programs receive points 
based on the amount of time a single channel is left unchanged. "I 
began realizing how many programs stay on in my house more 
than ten minutes because I'm so tired I don't want to get up to 
switch the channel. 'Laverne and Shirley' probably made it another 
year because I'm just as tired as everyone else." 

During the late '60s and early 70s Birnbaum lived in Berkeley. 
She didn't own a TV. She considered herself political. "It came 
down to finding out you might not own a TV but it wasn't stopping 
the majority of people who were watching more than seven hours a 
day. I felt I had to know a little more of why that was happening. I 
didn't want to be isolated or ghettoized in any sense." 

While Birnbaum was watching TV, she was also viewing video 
in art galleries. There she noticed the institution of television was 
being ignored and its reflection of the popular idiom denied. 

Birnbaum's first video piece, made in 1978, was a deconstruc- 

tion, taking just two shots from "Laverne and Shirley." Other 
deconstructions followed, using images from "Kojak" and "Won- 
der Woman." Because her material was recorded directly off the 
air, Birnbaum has challenged not only the nature of television, but 
also ownership of image. 




[Variety, January 18, 1983] 

Copyright infringement is a hotly debated issue in the industry. 
Producers of films, television, and records claim sales losses due to 
"illegal" dubbing. In the near future, hardware manufacturers 
like Sony might be required to pay royalties from the sale of their 
products, both VCRs and blank tape, to cover the pirating of 
movies, albums, and TV programs. By the time this article is in 
print the Supreme Court may have ruled sales of home VCRs ille- 
gal. That will not necessarily end the debate between Universal 
and Sony. Nor is it likely that home video equipment will be taken 
off the market. But a Supreme Court decision could create an 
interesting precedent in terms of Birnbaum's use of the medium. 

Questioning "high art practices," Birnbaum has shied away 
from gallery owners who have offered to commission her graphics. 
Her work is about television and her current strategy is to produce 
TV. Now that she is constructing rather than deconstructing tele- 
vision formulas, her perspective on ownership of image has altered 
slightly. Following her accountant's advice, she intends to avoid 
royalties because payments are difficult to collect. "Go for the flat 
rate," she suggests. 

Maxi Cohen can be placed in the first wave of video artists, 
having worked in the medium for 13 years. Through the operation 
of her own feature film distribution company, First-Run Features, 
Cohen has honed a keen business acumen. She credits herself with 
a creative sense about how to put money together and how to mar- 
ket, but she'd rather concentrate her creativity on her product: 
"Marketing and sales are about conquest. I'd rather have someone 
else do the conquering for me." 

Her experience with the world of real TV has been a succession 
of near-hits. In 1975, soon after completing Joe and Maxi, a fea- 
ture-length film about the relationship between herself and her 
dying father, Cohen approached NBC, ABC, and HBO with the 
idea of a documentary about child-star Brooke Shields. "Somehow 
it was the quintessential story about mothers, daughters, and Hol- 
lywood. HBO told me Brooke wasn't big enough and I said, "Lis- 
ten, by the time this thing is done, Brooke is going to be the biggest 
thing in this country." 



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NBC was interested, but her contact quit the network shortly 
after she made the proposal. "In business, people are very cau- 
tious," Cohen remarks, "and particularly with someone, like me, 
who doesn't say I'll give you the same thing as 'Saturday Night Live' 
or 'Mary Tyler Moore' or '60 Minutes' because what I have is not 
the same thing." She describes much of her work as a documenta- 
tion of the culture in a way she hopes will convey irony, wit, and 
whimsy — programs she considers accessible to a mass audience. 

When talk turns to negotiation, Cohen also exercises caution. 
She warns of the half-page contract that fails to define key terms. 
Ironically, with an idea she developed for CBS Cable, she nearly 
spent as much money on lawyers' fees drawing up the contract as 
she was paid. CBS Cable did not use the idea. They changed their 
direction to a more straight cultural orientation and then ended up 
going out of business. 


IDEA? (good question) 

GETS TO DO IT? (produce/direct) 

(home video, European distribution, syndication) 



termine some amount of time equally fair to both 
sides for a decision to be made on whether or not to 
go ahead with the project. Then if it is a NO deci- 
sion, decide who gets to keep the idea.) 


For a decade Electronic Arts Intermix has functioned as a non- 
profit organization marketing video art. Eighty-five percent of its 
sales are to museums and institutions; the remaining 15% goes to 
television, mostly in Europe. EAI has also closed deals with Aus- 
tralian TV, as well as cable and the networks in this country. Their 
earned income for 1982 increased 60% over 1981. 

"It almost seems like everyone in the world is starting a video 
art course or a video archive," muses Lori Zippay, EAI's adminis- 
trator in charge of distribution. She cites the Virginia Museum of 
Art's recent purchase of 11 tapes as an example, but her optimism 
is tempered: "Most of the art world still has a bias against any- 
thing that can be reproduced so easily and so democratically." 

Zippay anticipates the main thrust by video artists during the 
'80s will be an attempt to merge or at least come to terms with TV. 
The present trend she discerns is intellectual, very media-specific, 
referring back to television in a critical way. As a whole, she sees 
less product being produced: "More people are working, but those 
people are putting out less work. That's why the boundaries are 
breaking down. There's the possibility of making money in com- 
mercial TV and people need money to continue working." 

Video art is rooted in the politics, guerrilla TV, and conceptual 
art of the late '60s, according to Zippay. "It was a very idealistic 
beginning, but times change. People are looking at opportunities, 
not setting limitations. They want their work to be seen and they're 
exploring different ways of getting it seen." 

Another market Zippay sees as viable yet presently unexplored 
by EAI is home distribution. "We want to find people, not neces- 
sarily art collectors, who have their own Betamax or VHS decks, 
who buy Star Wars or porn tapes, but who just might pick up a 
tape by Nam June Paik." A company called Pyravid International 
is attempting a sales initiative of home video in California, but the 
avenue is still open in New York. 

At the Leo Castelli Gallery, video art has remained a "step- 
child" since the early '70s, when it was fostered by painters and 
sculptors, whose work was already represented by the gallery. 
Whereas a Robert Rauschenberg painting might carry a $450,000 
price tag or a Mia Westerlund-Roosen sculpture could cost approx- 
imately $35,000, a H-inch videotape sells for an average of $250 to 
$500. Annual sales reached about 50 tapes last year. Rentals, at 
approximately $50 per tape, fluctuate according to the school year, 
but average about two to three each week. 

"We function more as a gallery than a record store," explained 
Patti Brondage, director at the Castelli Gallery and curator of Cas- 
telli/Sonnabend Films and Tapes. She emphasizes that the video- 
tapes they sell are treated as works of art. No copy guards are 
applied to the tapes, but contracts with buyers and renters forbid 

In about 10 years, as technology develops, Brondage sees a 
vague possibility of a future market for video art. A device to hang 
on the wall like a painting could display the same image over and 
over and over again. "But I'm not selling hardware; we're not Sony 
dealers," she adds. 

With the development and marketing of flat-screen, high-reso- 
lution TVs and laser disc drives, video paintings are inevitable. In 
some respects, they could resemble kinetic beer ads in bars, in 
which simulated running water ripples over beer cans in mid- 
stream. The same technology will be used for point- of- purchase 
displays at Bloomingdale's cosmetic counters. 

Twin Art Productions is a business. Its business is art and its 
art is "purely television." Twin Art is Lynda and Ellen Kahn, iden- 
tical twins in their early thirties who have combined their artistic 
ability and marketing skills in the production of video art. They 
cite their influences as Pop/Warhol and their inspiration as day- 
time TV. Their work is fast-paced, with a strong graphic sensibility 
edited to new wave music. 

Twin Art began as a jewelry business, an endeavor the Kahns 
contend turned more of a profit than current sales from their 
videotapes. Video, however, is their future. "It's a big risk," ad- 
mits Ellen, outlining the increasing stakes. Their first project, 
"Instant This Instant That" (1978), was shot on Betamax. The 
budget for the four-minute tape was about $500, including stock, 
editing, dubs, and miscellaneous expenses. They used their own 
camera and deck. Most services were donated. 

"It didn't matter it was shot on Beta," says Lynda. "It didn't 
matter that it didn't have effects. It didn't matter that technically 
it did not hold up, because people were interested in new ideas." 
But now the twins find themselves competing with video art that 
has a much more commercial look, loaded with effects and of a 
high technical quality. They point to the work of Kit Fitzgerald 
and John Sanborn as an example. 

The Kahns perceive the current video art market as public sec- 
tor funding. Grants bestow legitimacy and prestige — factors relat- 
ed to the eventual value placed on an object. Declining public 
sector support, however, cannot compete with commercial budgets 
in terms of hard dollars. A typical budget for a four-minute rock 
video promo produced by a major label for MTV (Music Televi- 
sion) is $40,000. The twins doubt any granting body will allocate so 
much money for a short video work. On their current projects they 
rent BVU 110 decks and Ikegami HL79Ds, state-of-the-art equip- 
ment. They intend to use sophisticated post-production techniques. 
"What we're trying to do as artists is make something better than 
MTV with no budget," explains Ellen. 

Both women work professionally as producers in the industry, 
where they can trade services and gain access to necessary tools. 
Yet within the business they often carefully refrain from referring 
to themselves as "video artists." "Artists mean trouble because 
they are independent thinkers and they want to redo the system," 
Ellen points out. When an executive producer at MTV viewed her 
reel, containing Twin Art material as well as her freelance com- 
mercial work, he told her "artists shouldn't have jobs in television." 
Ironically, MTV exploits the term "video artist" in their promo- 
tional material. 


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The Kahns find themselves leaning closer and closer to the 
label of independent producers, yet their strategies for distribution 
encompass both the art world and television. Their most successful 
commercial venue thus far was inclusion of their work into the 
"Video Artist" series of "Night Flight," a late-night youth-oriented 
variety program aired on the USA Cable Network. Sixteen artists 
were included in a package deal co-produced by EAI. Each artist 
received $750 for a 15-minute slot, with any number of repeated 
showings over a nine-month period. EAI took a 30% cut. Overall, 
the twins estimate their share at approximately $2 per minute and, 
while they were glad to get the work out, they would like future 
projects to be more lucrative. 

"So much for the dribbles and drabs; you have to really bite for 
it," says Lynda. Their present goal is to make "the best tape that's 
ever been made," distributing the project to museums as an instal- 
lation, then getting it out on cable and network as much as possi- 
ble. "The art world has been our largest distributor, but I don't 
want to limit myself to the art world— it's obscure," Lynda com- 

The twins are undecided about whether home distribution 
should be issued as a limited or unlimited edition, yet pirating of 
their video is not a concern. As Ellen emphasizes, "Part of the 
work is to get it into every home." 

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Unlike Maxi Cohen, Dara Birnbaum, and Lynda and Ellen 
Kahn, who all have fine art degrees, Robin Schanzenbach has a de- 
gree in mass communications. Two weeks out of Florida, Schan- 
zenbach landed a job at CBS. Within one year she quit, upon real- 
izing the time involved before she would be able to achieve her am- 
bition- — to be a director at the network. Since 1977 Schanzenbach 
has freelanced as a producer/director/editor. At the same time she 
has produced her own wrk by doing what she calls the "video hus- 
tle," trading favors with friends and providing any necessary fund- 
ing herself. To date, Schanzenbach has not received a grant, but if 
she ever does, she wants to produce in a one-inch format. 

Most of her past work can be categorized under the heading 
"video music," although the term is an irritant to her now be>..iiiM 
of what she terms "exploitation" by commercial entrepreneurs: 
"Video music has become so popular and commercial. I clmi l 
have the contacts with the record companies and I'm not being 
paid to do it." 

Schanzenbach's one major attempt at mass distribution thus 
far was the production of a pilot for a video music series called 
"Teen Etiquette." As she explains, "I was upset with program- 
ming for teenagers. They're vulnerable as an age group and yet 
they're so influential. They spend an enormous amount of time in 
front of TV watching violence, so why not give them a little break, 
provide a release from programs about teenage alcoholism." Her 
pilot was a subtle parody on etiquette books published during the 
'50s that taught teenagers to stand up, shake hands, and say "how 
do you do." "They always gave you a perception of, and a peek 
into, the adult world." 

HBO was not interested in the project, nor were other commer- 
cial outlets. According to Schanzenbach, her name lacked visibil- 
ity. The natural showplace for her work at that point was the club 
scene. Danceteria became her marketplace, offering exposure as 
remuneration for playing her tapes. 

At present Schanzenbach has completed a series of video por- 
traits designed as a gallery /museum installation, altering her 
popular mode to a more "classical" approach. The piece deals 
with form, movement, and lyrical image. "It's nice to be serious," 
she reflects, "but hopefully not too boring." 



In the lobby of the Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd between 
Madison and Fifth, a lot of media deals go down. I observe, I 
eavesdrop, I listen, I surveil. 

On the pay phone in the marble enclave a fat man swings a 
deal. "Yea, yea, I'm still trying to get the Fonz. I think he'll do it. " 

I keep hearing the words "bottom line" and visualizing those 
rolling numbers quantelled all over a TV screen. My TCD5M 
audio cassette and Sennheiser binaural microphones unsuspect- 
ingly record the nomenclature as I stand casually in the corner. A 
harp playing "Bring Out the Clowns" in the hotel's tearoom can 
be heard in the background. 

From a stall in the Ladies' Room I overhear a conversation be- 
tween two women discussing the sale of television rights on a chil- 
dren's book. At the sink I strike up a conversation, turning into a 
friendly chat. Advice is cheap, sometimes invaluable. 

Theodora Sklover has an overall understanding of the entire 
market spectrum. As a lobbyist for public access in the early '70s, 
she established a nonprofit access studio called Open Channel, 
where community groups could produce cable programming. 
Sklover served as Executive Director of the Governor's Office for 
Motion Picture and Television Development for the State of New 
York. She now teaches at New York University and through her own 
firm, TKS Associates, she has done consultancy work for both 
public and private sectors on packaging and marketing strategies. 
I waited a total of five hours on three different occasions in the 
lobby of the Berkshire Place Hotel to connect with this woman. 

Sklover's understanding of video art places it more or less in a 
gallery context. In contrast, she perceives the current market for 
television as narrative. That is what people want, what people 
understand, andvwhat she likes, especially well-crafted, emotive, 
Hollywood movies. 

If an independent can put a narrative in a can today, one pro- 
duced for around a million and a half or up, they'd have to be 
"deaf, dumb and blind" not to make a profit on it, according to 
Sklover. The film Smithereens, produced by Susan Sidelson, is a 
noted example. The budget for that film ran $80,000. In two 
months after its release in November 1982, the film grossed ap- 
proximately $118,000. 

"It used to be there were seven banks where an independent 
could go," Sklover adds. "If they didn't give you the money you 
didn't make your feature. And there were four television networks. 
If they didn't give you the money, you didn't make your program. 
That's changed." 

There has never been so much competition in the marketplace, 
Sklover concludes. While some experts contend the pie is being cut 
into smaller pieces, other studies claim the market is growing. 
People are watching more TV. The investment community is ner- 
vous about so many new technologies because of uncertainty relat- 
ed to the degree of diversification and questions about when the 
market will eventually level out. 

Sklover anticipates some interesting possibilities regarding new 
technology. She encourages younger artists and independents to 
investigate the areas of interactive video disc, video games, and 
video music — areas she labels as "hot," some being very experi- 
mental. At present Sony is marketing two- to five-minute audio 
cassettes like 45rpm singles. She expects video will follow suit. 
"Video disc hasn't been around very long. I don't care what you've 
done before, you're not an expert in it. Everybody has to start 
thinking differently. I love to look at it almost like a grid. It's not 
just linear with a beginning, middle, and an end. You have to pre- 



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package it in 20 different ways." 

Although the "great expectations" of cable have not been met 
in this country, due to spiraling interest rates and economic reces- 
sion, the growth of cable is still phenomenal. For example, the 
franchise agreement for the City of Boston requires 102 channels, 
30 under their own city corporation. 

From Sklover's perspective, "The more information you have, 
the more it can serve you. The less information you have, the less it 
will serve you and the more it will serve someone else and their 
market considerations. And the people who get the information 
will be the ones to manipulate it." Technology, she believes, is a 
tool and tools have to be acted upon to make something happen. 
In her opinion, the movement of the studios and networks into the 
new technologies and the cable marketplace is a positive sign be- 
cause they bring more money to the table, generating more dollars 
for smaller productions. 


A producer, usually one with some kind of track record, can sell a 
production to one or more distribution systems before it is ever 
produced. The producer can then take that guarantee to an in- 
vestor in an attempt to negotiate financing. A pre-sale is also called 
a licensing fee. 

Sklover notes, "I know a film producer in upstate New York 
who makes features for kids. He pre-sells to German TV and cable. 
He doesn't make millions, but he makes enough to continue the 
programming he wants to produce." There are numerous cable 
outlets for children's programming, such as Nickelodeon, Calliop, 
and the Disney Channel. Sklover points to public access as an out- 
let for younger producers to establish a track record; it's a place 
where programs can be made using any form, any content, one 
shot, or in series. 

Real profit in the television business, how the industry has 
traditionally maintained itself, is through syndication. A series of 
programs that gain attention, like "M*A*S*H," can be sold to 
several markets. The industry has always operated on deficit fi- 
nancing. "I know as a producer I will not make money on the first 
go around," explains Sklover, "but if the program continues for 
two or three years, then goes into syndication I'm going to have 
money in the backend forever." 


"If you're feeling optimistic and you're willing to look forward, 
the market for video art is everywhere and it's totally wide open, 
but in moments of somber reality I have to ask: What market- 
place?" comments Carlota Schoolman, associate director in 
charge of broadcasting at the Kitchen Center for Video, Music, 
Dance, and Performance in New York. 

According to Schoolman, there are two programs the Kitchen 
markets "aggressively" to cable and broadcast television markets 
— Robert Ashley's "The Lessons," a half-hour highly experimental 
video music tape with an underlying narrative premise, and Joan 
Logue's "The Spots," a series of 30-second "commercials" made 
in collaboration with artists like Joan Jonas, Laurie Anderson, Bill 
T. Jones, and Arnie Zane. The Kitchen is involved in television 
co-productions with both these artists, as well as with Martine 
Barrat, a "guerrilla journalist," and Robert Longo, a new wave 
artist. With the Ashley project, "Perfect Lives Private Parts," a 
seven-episode opera, the Kitchen was able to negotiate a contract 
with Channel Four in London. 

As a new broadcasting entity (in operation since November 
1982), Channel Four offers alternative programming. It receives 
government support as well as commercial revenue from its sister 
channel ITV Three. Ratings from Channel Four have not yet 
gleaned spectacular support. Its sometimes controversial program- 
ming, such as material dealing with gay topics, is known to raise 
eyebrows in the more conservative sectors of British society. 

Schoolman explained the agreement between the Kitchen and 
Channel Four regarding the Ashley project: "They will pay us a 
lump sum upon delivery, some of which has been defined as buy- 
ing points. It was a straight arithmetic proportion. We defined 
exactly what we thought was required to make the piece and exactly 
how much we thought it was worth on the marketplace. Those 
were two different numbers. The points they earned were based on 
that proportion of their contribution over and above their straight 
license fee." 

She added that the more pre-sales the Kitchen can line up in 
other territories, the more production money they can' show poten- 
tial investors, emphasizing that one of the most essential aspects of 
the negotiations was the right by the artists involved to exercise 
final cut. 

"Kid Carlos," a half-hour documentary being made by Barrat, 
deals with kids in the South Bronx involved with boxing as a life- 
style. Barrat has worked extensively during the last decade with 
similar subject matter, but much of the work was shot on half-inch 
black and white portapak, technically unsuitable for most broad- 
cast situations. "We're working on a program that is a culmination 
of the unique relationship she has developed with the kids she's 
been taping over the last 10 years — but from the point of view of 
television today, not from the point of view of guerrilla television 
10 years ago," says Schoolman. 

According to Arlene Zeichner, former director of the Media 
Bureau at the Kitchen, most video art in the past has lacked pro- 
duction value suitable for broadcast and mass audience appeal. 
"We've had projects that were fascinating in terms of art world 
language, but someone in the general public would have no interest 
in them. We have to figure out what would work for a broader 
audience if that's our goal, not to say that we're going to leave the 
artists who are doing more obscure, esoteric stuff that is interest- 
ing intellectually." 

Zeichner perceives a difference in emphasis between younger 
artists and the video artists of the last decade: "Those people 
under 30 are doing very commercial work and what's happening is 
that they're working 10 hours a day at Digital Effects and the Satel- 
lite News Network and it drains their artwork. They get on better 
equipment and it looks cleaner, but they don't have the energy to 
put into their own work, the hours of thinking and developing, 
because they're punching the buttons on a CMX." 

Through statistical evidence, advertisers and marketing experts 
have determined that a commercial must be viewed three times 
before the average consumer can make a proper product identifi- 
cation. During the last three days, three girls have talked to me 
about Lacan or post-Lacanianfilm theory and three boys have told 
me what personal computers to buy. The New York Post advertises 
the Commodore 64 at $369. If I buy a package with peripherals I 
think I can pick up the main computer for around $300. The pack- 
age will cost considerably more. The three cornerstones of capi- 
talism are men, money, and machines. William Paley, the 82-year- 
old chairman of the board at CBS, was unavailable for comment 
although I attempted to arrange an interview with him more than 
three times. 

That's still the bottom line. 


Joan Jubela, a New York video artist, also works commercially in the tele- 
vision industry. 

Graphics by Ellen Kahn — - Special thanks to Julie Harrison, Barbara 
Mayfield, Karen Singleton, and Richard Concepcion. 



-3 . 



Lisa L Rodman 

Repentence came too late. The Portals were never again to 
open to her. Throughout the years with empty arms and guilty 
conscience she must face her husband's unspoken question, 
"Where are my Children?" ' 

As the house lights were switched on, the last title card, sum- 
marizing the film's narrative, remained in the minds of the audi- 
ence. Once again Lois Weber had provided an entertaining photo- 
play with a serious message. Few of the viewers were surprised, 
though, since by 1916 silent picture audiences had come to expect 
a Weber film to use cinema's emotional power to dramatize a so- 
cial issue. In the early decades of the twentieth century a Weber 
film was as recognizable as a Griffith or DeMille; her contempo- 
raries compared her to Griffith, citing her technical innovation 
and artistic ability. During her 26-year career Weber made at least 
150, and probably as many as 400, films — most of which have been 
lost or destroyed. 2 Some were "one-reelers" — quickly produced 
and often used as "chasers" between film showings or vaudeville 
acts — but many were features and among the biggest box office 
attractions of the silent film era. Almost all of Weber's films were 
melodramas dealing with controversial subjects such as capital 
punishment, opium use, child labor, marriage, divorce, economic 
injustice, and birth control. 

Frequently, Weber collaborated with her husband, Phillips 
Smalley, in writing, directing, and acting, but by 1915 she had come 
to be known as Universal's top director, and the majority of the 
couple's films credited Weber with the direction. Although some 
pictures were ambiguously billed as "by the Smalleys," one jour- 
nalist reported that "Phillips Smalley came to her for advice upon 
every question that presented itself." 3 In 1917 Lois Weber Produc- 
tions (Weber's own company and studio) was created, and she 
signed with Paramount to distribute her films for the then incredi- 
ble sum of $50,000 per film plus half the profits. 4 At the time 
Weber's films were both noted and notorious, yet changes in 
American society and in the film industry itself contributed signifi- 
cantly to the decline of her career. She died in poverty in 1939 and 
today is only rarely mentioned by film historians and critics. 

Those who have begun to examine Weber's life and films tend 
to see her either as wholly conservative or as the archetypal "new 
woman" promoting modern ideas and working in the public 
sphere. 5 When one considers Weber's self-perception and defini- 
tion, as well as the beliefs she both internalized and questioned, 
and her motives for directing films, she is less easy to label. How 
Weber became a director and how she was publicly presented as 
such reveals the transitional nature of her ideas. 

©1983 Lisa L. Rudman 

Lois Weber was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in 1882 — 
three years after Eadweard Muybridge stimulated international 
inventors to develop motion pictures by patenting his method of 
taking sequential still photographs of objects in motion. Weber's 
was a strongly Protestant family, and her parents' intense religiosi- 
ty would influence the rest of her life. After a short career as a con- 
cert pianist, she became a member of the Church Army, an organi- 
zation similar to the Salvation Army. As a "Church Home Mis- 
sionary," she sang hymns at the rescue mission, on street corners, 
in industrial slums, and in the red light districts of Pittsburgh. 6 
Weber was dedicated to this work, and the impression it made 
upon her is visible years later in her choice of subjects for her films 
and her vivid depiction of prostitutes, waifs, working girls, and 

There is some evidence that Weber next tried a career as an 
opera singer in New York City, living on little money and financing 
her voice lessons by playing the piano for her instructor's other 
pupils. 7 Sometime between 1900 and 1903 Weber's uncle in Chi- 
cago convinced her that she should try the theatrical stage. As she 
recalled it: 

Uncle overcame my many arguments and finally landed me on 

the stage. As I was convinced that the theatrical profession 

needed a missionary, he suggested that the best way to reach 

them was to become one of them, so I went on the stage filled 

with a great desire to convert my fellowmen. 8 

The rationale that persuaded her that this work had a higher moral 

purpose later became part of Weber's philosophy about her film 


While working as an actress in comedies and melodramas, she 
met and married Phillips Smalley. In 1908, when Smalley was out 
on tour and Weber was in New York, she began to work in films at 
Gaumont. She worked on the early experiments with "sound-on- 
cylinder" talkies, writing the short scenarios and the dialogues 
which were recorded on phonograph records and synchronized 
with the action. Yet, like other companies at the time, Gaumont 
soon abandoned the idea of developing sound pictures in favor of 
perfecting the silent movie. Weber's main task became acting in 
the films; Smalley also joined Gaumont, to play leading parts op- 
posite Weber. Given the technological and unfamiliar qualities of 
film, most stage performers viewed film acting with disdain, but as 
film historian Richard Koszarski has noted, Weber saw something 
special in films: She was one of the first to recognize the persuasive 
power of narrative cinema and put it to use. 9 By writing, acting, 
and eventually directing. Weber was able to give cinematic ser- 
mons to a broad audience. 

In a 1915 article entitled "How I Became a Motion Picture 
Director," Weber described how, as she began to work in close col- 
laboration with Herbert Blache at Gaumont, she "discovered little 
defects here and there; a chance to improve the action occasional- 
ly; a new line to etch in that strengthened a character, and a hun- 
dred and one other things that enlarged the scene and gave it 
finish." 10 Although she attributed her separate director status to 
the company's expansion, Weber underlined such "attention to 
detail" as one of the director's highest responsibilities. Indeed, 
according to one report, Weber personally went over every inch of 
her films, "scrutinizing each tiny picture closely, keen to detect a 
face obscured or any false trick of the camera or error of the 
actor." 11 In addition to stressing women's valuable attention to 
detail, 12 in her public discussions Weber used the Victorian defini- 
tion of woman as inherently emotional, religious, sensitive, and 
morally superior to account for her success as a director. Both she 
and her interviewers frequently pointed out her "natural" talent 
for depicting emotion and romance, as well as her skillful "media- 
tion" between script and realized film or between the various pro- 
duction team members. 13 

Weber's arguments reflected and affected the public's percep- 
tion of her as a woman and as a filmmaker. Motion Picture Maga- 
zine's 1920 article entitled "The Domestic Directress" included a 
photo of Weber complete with apron and skillet, reminding the 

Domestic hours are well interspersed in the life of Directress 


Where Are My Children? (1916) by Lois Weber. 

Weber and her efficiency behind the megaphone in the studio 
fails to interfere with her efficiency in her well ordered home. " M 
Weber and her publicists wanted to assure the public that although 
she was a successful and controversial director, she was still a "real 
woman. "'5 In 1917, one reporter commented on the feminine touch 
which ran through the new Lois Weber Studios: 

Its broad grounds, with rose bushes and shade trees, the swing 
in the backyard, the wide hospitable doors, and the long hand- 
somely furnished reception room are all reminiscent of some 
Southern manor house. Miss Weber calls it "My 'Old Home- 
stead. '" l6 
A writer for The Ladies Home Journal also remarked about the 
"feminine" studio and added that Weber "treats her co-workers as 
a family." 17 

While many writers portrayed Weber as an "ordinary" woman 
who happened to be a motion picture director, others felt more 
comfortable depicting her as an "exceptional" woman. Trying to 
reconcile the tension between what a woman was supposed to be 
and what Weber was, many commentators suggested she was extra- 
ordinary not because of her individual talent, but because she 
possessed "masculine traits" in addition to her feminine nature. 
One article, entitled "A Lady General of the Motion Picture Army 
— Lois Weber Smalley, Virile Director," began by describing "the 
handsome woman who works like a man, and who turns out photo- 
plays of supermasculine virility and 'punch.'" 18 The author used 
military, royal, and "masculine" metaphors throughout the. piece 
and then completely switched metaphors to reveal how "feminine" 
she was in her own home. Another article quoted Carl Laemmle, 
head of Universal: 

Miss Weber has the strength of a man, all the hardness of a 
man. She has all the experience of a man, that enables her to 
concentrate on her work — and all of the softness of a woman. 
She is intensely feminine. 19 
This lengthy piece in Liberty: A Weekly for Everybody stated that 
"Her figure and her entire manner suggest unusual physical 
strength." 20 The author added: "Her mind is an admixture of mas- 
culine and feminine traits, with a man's capacity for abstract 
visioning and the strictly practical, womanly ability to concentrate 
on the thing at hand." 21 

While reviewers and publicists sketched the picture of Weber 
as "Domestic Directress" or "androgynous" genius, Weber herself 
contributed much to the perception of her as a woman primarily 
carrying out a sacred moral duty, and only secondarily an artist. In 
this way Weber is similar to other women professionals and re- 
formers of the time who used the concepts of a uniquely "feminine" 
sensibility and women's supposed moral superiority to rationalize 
their participation in the public sphere. When one considers her 


early life, it is clear how Weber could see herself as a motion pic- 
ture "missionary" whose motivation was neither personal fulfill- 
ment nor self-aggrandizement. 

Weber's stated purpose was to promote a moral way of life, yet 
her films often contained frank discussions of controversial social 
issues. Although traditionalists might agree with her moral stance, 
some objected to the "modern" way in which taboo subjects were 
openly dealt with in her films. Speaking of the highly controversial 
pro-birth control theme in Where Are My Children? (1916), Weber 

The theme should be brought to the attention of every thinking 
man and woman, and if others, from prudery, are fearful of 
addressing themselves to such a topic, it is no reason why I 
should shirk what I regard as a sacred duty. 22 
In defense of Hypocrites (1914), a film that shocked many by using 
a nude girl to represent the figure of truth, Weber told a reporter: 
"I merely held up the mirror of truth that humanity might see 
life." 23 Of her film Scandal (1915) she said: "I trust that this play : 
will act as a most powerful sermon and will accomplish much last- 
ing good wherever shown." 24 

Although Weber's use of film to teach the masses proper moral 
behavior can be seen as Victorian, many of her films were criticized 
and censored. Her frustration with Victorian prudishness and the 
lack of respect given to films as an art is revealed in her "modern" 
and progressive response to censorship: 

"Don't let the people have what they want, " is as pernicious a 
cry as its converse "Give the people what they want." Both are 
parrotlike catch-words of limited meaning. "The people" have 
always been reactionary in their ideas, and have fought progress 
in all its forms consistently. If "the people" alone were consult- 
ed, we should still be in the patriarchal stage, spinning and 
weaving our own clothes, and growing and killing our own 
food. That is the stage to which censorship would like to rele- 
gate us. The "people" must be educated by example to want 
something better. Especially is this true in art. 25 

Censorship of her films highlighted the controversy surround- 
ing Weber. Concerned with her marketability as a moral shep- 
herdess), the press, the distributors, and probably Weber herself 
wished to show that although her involvement in a career made her 
atypical, she still held traditional values and beliefs, particularly 
about marriage. True to the Victorian code, which drew a solid 
line between love and passion, 26 Weber told a reporter: 

We are all too apt to confuse happiness with passion. Love is 
constant hunger — friendship alone brings happiness of lasting 
satisfaction. Life began to be more beautiful for me when I 
found friendship in my husband's love and we have developed 
into the most wonderful friends in the world, so close in our 
thoughts and sympathies that words are hardly necessary. The 

touch of the hand, the raised eyebrow carrying a whole volume 

of meaning to the other. 21 

The Columbus Dispatch cited the Smalleys as "one of the most 
illuminating examples of marital happiness." 28 After praising 
Weber's work, the Ohio State Journal was sure to mention that 
"she and Mr. Smalley have been congenial co-workers," and the 
Motion Picture Story Magazine called Phillips Smalley her 
"chum." 29 In an interview published in a syndicated column, which 
reached thousands of readers, Weber was asked if she believed in 
the possibility of a happy marriage. "She said she most emphati- 
cally did believe in the happy American household." The inter- 
viewer then asked what was the one necessity for a happy mar- 
riage. "'There is only one,' she said, 'Friendship. . . .The success- 
ful marriage should be composed of nine tenths friendship and one 
tenth physical attraction. For then when the physical glamour goes 
. . .there remains the friendship, firm, unalterable proof against 
all batteries of wear and tear. And honor — a sense of honor of 
course.' " 30 While publicists recorded Weber's "prescription," they 
somehow failed to describe her full "reality" — not until the end of 
her career did it become widely known that she and Smalley had 
divorced in 1923. 

Marriage was in fact the predominant theme in many of 
Weber's films. Like Most Wives (1914), The Hand That Rocks the 
Cradle (1917), and What Do Men Want? (1921) are Victorian in 
their preoccupation with the themes of marriage and morality, but 
they do not idealize marriage. Instead, they acknowledge the inter- 
play of romantic love, economic factors, and class divisions in the 
selection of a spouse and the success or failure of the marriage 
itself. In some films, like A Cigarette, That's All (1915), a flaw in 
the wife's morality is the cause of a failed marriage; others, such as 
Hypocrites, subtly criticize the hypocritical Victorian view of a 
woman's innate morality and passivity (although the woman was 
seen as morally superior, as a wife her fate was determined by her 
husband's immorality). In many of the didactic films of the silent 
era, "marital incompatibility and maladjustment [were] rarely 
hinted at and the unquestioned purpose of wedlock was Progeni- 
ture." 31 Yet Weber's films, although often moralistic, did explore 
"incompatibility" and "maladjustment" in marriage: Some por- 
tray couples without children and many promote a transitional 
(and sometimes paradoxical) blend of Victorian and modern 
values. Marriage as cinematic theme and as biographical reality 
for Weber is one aspect of the tension between who Lois Weber 
was, what she believed, and how she was projected to the public. 
Weber's ideas straddled two worlds, preserving one while illumi- 
nating the reality and possibilities of the other. In the process she 
often adapted traditional attitudes to fit new realities. 

During the time of Weber's career the lives of women and men 
were undergoing transformation and redefinition in a modernized 
American society. Although basic Victorian tenets such as in- 
equality in marriage remained intact for many, the ideology of 
Victorian womanhood was challenged by the undeniable appear- 
ance of women who did not fit into the Victorian norm — women 
who worked outside of the home and pursued new activities during 
their leisure time. Rather than a radical break from Victorian per- 
ceptions of womanhood, "modern womanhood" can be seen as a 
response to urbanizing and industrializing society, an adaptation 
of Victorian ideology which permitted it to exist in a new context. 

Embodying both Victorian codes and modern mores, Weber's 
own beliefs about women's roles, marriage, the family, and the 
need for social reform, as well as her view of film as a pulpit and an 
art, reflect her era's ideological continuities as well as its changes. 
She worked her way up from writing scenarios, making sugges- 
tions, attendingto detailed work, and adding the finishing touches, 
to managing the entire direction of a film. That the role of the 
director was more varied and less rigidly defined than it is today 
and that codes of behavior for women were changing were just two 
of the many factors that facilitated Weber's success. Perhaps to 
her lasting credit, Weber has never been easily categorized: She 
can be seen as Victorian in the apparent meaning of her films and 
in her "moral purpose" for directing, but modern insofar as she 
.was a major and controversial early director. 

1 . Title card from reel 5, Lois Weber (Dir.), Where Are My Children? (Uni- 
versal: 1916, approx. 5,500 ft.). Viewed Feb. 16, 1982, Post Collection, 
Library of Congress. 

2. The discrepancy in the number of films cited is due to several factors: 
The majority of her films are no longer in existence; some historians do not 
count many of her shorter "one-reeler" productions; others add those films 
which she wrote or acted in to those she simply directed. 

3. "Seen on the Screen," Chicago Herald (July 1916), n.p. 

4. Richard Koszarski, "The Years Have Not Been Kind to Lois Weber," 
Village Voice (Nov. 10, 1975), p. 140. 

5. The "new woman" is a phenomenon historians have only recently begun 
to address. 

6. Koszarski, p. 140. 

7. Gerald D. McDonald, "Lois Weber," in Notable American Women Vol. 
Ill, ed. Edward T. James (Cambridge: Belknap Press/Harvard University 
Press, 1975), p. 554. 

8. Alice Carter, "Muse of the Reel," Motion Picture Magazine, vol. 21, 
no. 2 (March 1921), appears to be p. 81, continued from p. 63; also quoted 
in Koszarski, p. 140. 

9. Koszarski, p. 140. 

10. Lois Weber, "How I Became a Motion Picture Director," Paramount 
Magazine, vol. 1, no. 2 (Jan. 1915), pp. 12-13. 

11. Ohio State Journal (Sept.23, 1915), n.p. 

12. It is interesting that other industries also tended to hire women for 
detail work, either at the beginning or end stages of production. See Judith 
McGaw on the paper-making industries in the 1880s ('"A Good Place to 
Work': Industrial Workers and Occupational Choice: The Case of Berk- 
shire Women," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 10, no. 2 [Autumn 
1979], p. 244). 

13. Alice Guy Blache used a similar argument in "Woman's Place in 
Photoplay Production," Moving Picture World (July 11, 1914), reprinted in 
Karyn Kay and Gerald Peary, Women and the Cinema (New York: Dutton, 
1977), p. 338. Koszarski notes that Ida May Park used this rationale. 

14. "The Domestic Directress," Motion Picture Magazine, vol. 19, no. 6 
(July 1920), p. 67. 

15. Carter cites Weber's use of an analogy to dressmaking to describe in- 
spiration and idea development. 

16. Elizabeth Peltret, "On the Lot with Lois Weber," Photoplay (Oct. 
1917), p. 89. 

17. Henry MacMahon, "Women Directors of Plays and Pictures," The 
Ladies HomeJournal, vol. 37, no. 12 (Dec. 1920), p. 13. 

18. L. H. Johnson, "A Lady General of the Motion Picture Army — Lois 
Weber Smalley .Virile Director," Photoplay (June 1915), p. 42. 

19. Charles S. Dunning, "The Gate Women Don't Crash," Liberty: A 
Weekly for Everybody (May 14, 1927), p. 31. 

20. Similarly, the Chicago Tribune (May 25, 1916) called Weber "an in- 
defatigable worker in picture making." 

21. Dunning, p. 31. Notice that whereas Laemmle attributes the ability to 
concentrate to Weber's "masculinity," Dunning considers it part of her 

22. "Sensational Film Play Billed," San Francisco Chronicle (Aug. 20, 
1916), n.p. 

23. M.L. Larkin, "Price of Success in Movies Is Sacrifice Says Thrill Crea- 
tor," Milwaukee Journal (Jan. 2, 1916), n.p. 

24. Koszarski, p. 140. Cf. the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (July 15, 1915), 
which stated that "when Lois Weber undertook to produce 'Scandal' she 
was doing a noble work." 

25. Mile. Chic, "The Greatest Woman Director in the World," The Mov- 
ing Picture Weekly (May 20, 1916). 

26. Many Victorian novels also made strong divisions between love and 
passion while stressing companionship in marriage. 

27. Carter, p. 81. 

28. Columbus Dispatch, (March 12, 1916), n.p. 

29. Ohio State Journal, (Sept. 23, 1915), n.p.; Remont, p. 126. 

30. Pearl Malverne, "Romance Plus Common Sense," Motion Picture 
Classic, vol. 16 (May 1923), p. 60. 

31. Peter John Dyer, "Some Silent Sinners," Films and Filming, vol. 4, 
no. 6 (March 1958), p. 13. 

Lisa L. Rudman lives in Vermont, where she is an independently unwealthy 
scholar, filmmaker, and proprietor of "Pluck Productions." 





; 3^B 









«■ Hi 

"31 H 




Walk into church 
my mother trembles 


reciting a prayer about orgasm 
I start to weep 

In the water near a raft 
I see a woman 
swimming and diving 
in a wet suit 

see her pubic hair 







^ ggi ^lllllisSS8S 

111111 lllllP^ 



The following roundtable discussion among women filmmakers from Latin America, the first of its 
kind, took place at the Second Annual International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema in 
Havana, Cuba, in December 1980. The meeting was organized byJulianne Burton and Zuzana Pick, 
who subsequently translated, edited, and updated the material. 



Documentary filmmaker and 

Born in Mexico, 1945 
One child 

My active involvement in film grows 
out of a political experience — a miner's 
strike in 1964. 1 was fascinated by the fact 
that some of the union members were film- 
ing the strike, and I began to assist with 
the shooting. The following year I assisted 
in a series of independent films, before 
being hired by Mexican television, where I 
directed my first documentary. 

In 1966 Paul Leduc, Rafael Castanedo, 
Alexis Grivas, and I organized a filmmak- 
ing group which in 1968, before the Tlatel- 
olco massacre, 1 began to issue 16mm"com- 
muniques" from the student movement. 
From then on, what living I have made, I 
have made as a filmmaker. 

Just prior to, and during the early years 
of, the Echeverria regime (1970-1976), 
there was a relatively large independent 
film movement in Mexico, in which I also 
participated. I put a lot of energy into 
financing Mexico insurgente (Insurgent 
Mexico, 1971), which Leduc directed. We 
managed to make the film on a very low 

At the end of Echeverria's term I was 
hired by one of the new state production 
companies then being formed. I produced 
10 features in a little over a year. Produc- 
tion provided a framework in which I, as a 
woman, could exercise my creativity; but 
in that framework, creativity is the equiva- 
lent of efficiency and effectiveness. I stood 
out in this area because I was a woman; I 
was recognized and respected as an excel- 
lent producer. This was my entry into film 

Since 1976, when I decided to leave 

production in order to direct full-time, I 

(continued on p. 48) 



Documentary filmmaker and 
film teacher 

Born in Peru, 1934 

Four children and three grand- 

In Peru we still cannot lay claim to any 
longstanding film tradition. Until 1973, 
when the government finally passed the 
Ley de Cine (National Film Law), our out- 
put was very meager — a few sporadic fea- 
ture films of very poor quality. There was 
no industry to speak of — only isolated 
companies which would form to finance a 
specific film, and then fold. There was no 
continuity in film production. Since no 
market for short films existed, none were 

I began studying filmmaking in 1967, 
at a time when there were no women film- 
makers in Peru. Since the mid-'70s a few 
other women have entered the field, among 
them Marta Esteban and Chiara Varese. 
Though the number of women filmmakers 
in Peru is still small, our films seem to be 
among the most socially conscious. When 
the University of San Marcos decided to 
organize a film series on peasant issues, for 
example, the only two films available had 
been directed by women. 

(continued on p. 48) 


Documentary filmmaker 
Bom in Venezuela, 1940 
Two children 

I have been making films for over 20 
years now, but originally I worked in radio, 
television and theater. In the early '60s, a 
time of widespread social conflict and lots 
of activity, I bought a 16mm camera, 
taught myself how to use it, and began 
filming events in Caracas, newsreel style. I 
had no specific outlet for the footage I 
shot; I simply wanted to bear witness to 
the events of that agitated time. 

That was also the period when political 
relations between Cuba and Venezuela be- 
gan to open up. Venezuela had supported 
the guerrilla struggle against Batista, and 
the members of my generation, enthusi- 
astic about the Cuban Revolution, actively 
sought to establish closer ties. In 1962 a 
compahero from the same political party I 
was active in made a trip to Cuba. He took 
along a huge reel of my footage, which was 
viewed by the members of the Cuban Film 
Institute (ICAIC) and by the Dutch docu- 
mentarist Joris Ivens, who was visiting the 
island at the time. Some of my footage was 
incorporated into the ICAIC Noticieros 
(weekly newsreels), under the direction of 
Santiago Alvarez. 

They invited me to Cuba for a two- 
month visit, but I ended up staying for 
eight. The idea was for me to do a sort of 
apprenticeship in every department of 
ICAIC, so that I would be exposed to all 
aspects of the profession. But I was fasci- 
nated above all by one figure, Santiago 
Alvarez, soon to become Cuba's foremost 

In 1962 1 returned to Venezuela, where 
I continued to film in newscast style. I 
served as assistant director on an impor- 
tant documentary short by Enrique Guedes, 
La ciudad que nos ve (The City Which 
Sees Us, 1963-64). 

In 1966 a very special opportunity arose. 

As a result of a theatrical production, my 

husband, Jacobo Borges, was approached 

(continued on p. 48) 

©1983 Julianne Burton and Zuzana Pick 


®ms*2&ffi! rmi®i$m 

liiil Illilp 


Josefina just finished telling us about 
her long career of more than 20 years. I 
will say very little because I have only one 
year of experience in making films. 

Before the insurrection in Nicaragua 
there was no film tradition to speak of — 
only newsreels about the Somoza family, 
which were more social chronicles than 
genuine news. There was no laboratory in 
the country, so all footage had to be sent to 
Mexico to be processed. Feature films were 
invariably foreign, coming mainly from 
Mexico and the United States. 

Our national cinema, as Alfredo Gue- 
vara 2 says, was born trailing the odor of 
gun powder. The FSLN (Sandinist Nation- 
al Liberation Front) decided to create a 
group of war correspondents with motion 
picture cameras, in order to record what 
was actually happening and to counter the 
distorted news stories transmitted by the 
Somoza regime. They sent a number of 
people of various professional back- 
grounds, but without any prior filmmaking 
experience, to Mexico for training. After 
three months they were dispatched to vari- 
ous war zones, where they worked with vol- 
unteers from a number of other countries 
to capture the key events in a war for liber- 
ation from one of the most infamous dicta- 
tors in Latin American history. 

With one sole exception, none of us 

now working for INCINE (the National 

(continued on p. 49) 

I first studied at the film school in Bra- 
silia and later at the federal university 
which, despite our efforts, was shut down 
by the government. I had to transfer to a 
university in Rio, where Nelson Pereira dos 
Santos was one of my teachers. 3 I got my 
first professional experience working as 
production assistant on his O Amuleto de 
Ogum (The Amulet ofOgum, 1974). Soon 
afterwards I withdrew from the university 
because I felt I could only get the appren- 
ticeship I needed outside the university 
context. I subsequently worked as assis- 
tant director, production assistant, and 
scenographer on three or four films. I col- 
laborated with another filmmaker on a 
documentary short and worked for a year 
in educational television doing a program 
about Brazilian film. Gaijin: A Brazilian 
Odyssey (1980) was my first feature-length 
fictional film. 4 

The concern with women's issues is 
relatively new for me, since up to last year I 
had always thought of myself simply as a 
filmmaker, not as a woman filmmaker. As 
I began to participate in international festi- 
vals, where women get together to discuss 
things and organize a movement of their 
own, I began to confront these issues. 

Women are very active on the Brazilian 
film scene. There must be about 15 women 
currently making feature films and 20 
others making shorts. Still, the majority of 
women say that they feel a certain pressure 
from the men. I believe that such pressure 
exists but that it is not that pronounced. 

Perhaps my own case is an exception. 
Though my family has been in Brazil for 
three generations now, our family structure 
continues to be matriarchal. My grand- 
mother was the one who always gave the 
orders, and my mother was widowed quite 
early, so there are very few men in the fam- 
ily, and we girls were brought up to face 
the world on our own. It never entered my 
mind that a woman needed a man in order 
to survive. 

Turning to the question of a feminine 
aesthetic, I believe that Brazilian society is 
patriarchal, and demonstrates a corres- 
pondingly patriarchal aesthetic. It is clear 
that films by women have a different vision 
and different values. As women and as 
militants for social change, we are able to 
(continued on p. 49) 

I have lived in exile in Finland for the 
past five years; my husband and children 
are Finnish. My film career began in 1968 
as a student at the film school in Valpa- 
raiso. In 1971 I joined Chile Films, the 
state film corporation, where I made my 
first documentary, Cronica del salitre (Ni- 
trate Chronicle, 1971). I also worked as 
assistant director to Miguel Litti'n in the 
first phases of the production of La tierra 
prometida (The Promised Land, 1973). 
Afterwards I joined the Grupo Tercer Aho 
under Patricio Guzman's direction, work- 
ing with them on La batalla de Chile (The 
Battle of Chile, 1974/76/79) until the coup 
d'etat which overthrew the Allende govern- 
ment in September 1973. From that time, I 
took on only political assignments, which 
eventually meant that I had to leave the 

In Finland, where I have lived since 
1975, I have tried to get back into film- 
making, but there have been a number of 
other important things to do in exile. Soon 
after arriving in the country, I was able to 
make a documentary for television about 
the lives of Chilean exiles in Finland. I 
then dedicated myself to animation and 
made a short "spot" about the "disap- 
peared" in Chile using a paper-cutout 
technique. I attempted a few other projects 
which I wasn't able to realize before finally 
making Gracias a la vida (Thanks to Life, 
1980), a 42-minute fictional film. « 

Although it's true that I am very con- 
cerned with women's issues, my original 
intention was not to make a film about a 
woman. I was interested in depicting cul- 
tural shock in an extreme situation. When 
(continued on p. 49) 

i Jiifc, 111 





have made six films. In 1978, before Som- 
oza was overthrown, I filmed Los que hardn 
la libertad {Those Who Will Make Liberty) 
in Nicaragua. Afterwards I made Cronica 
del olvido (Chronicle of Forgetfulness, 
1979), which deals with a satellite squat- 
ters' city of four million inhabitants on the 
outskirts of the Mexican capital. 

I then went back to do more filming in 
Nicaragua under extremely difficult and 
dangerous conditions, working with a 
group of filmmakers from various Latin 
American countries, including the Nica- 
raguan filmmakers whom we had trained 
in Mexico. We divided into small units and 
filmed separately. We had no preestab- 
lished plan for the film, but simply record- 
ed what was happening in the struggle. 
The result was Victoria de un pueblo en 
armas (Victory of a People hi Arms, 1980), 
released after Somoza's overthrow. I don't 
want to seem like a perpetual war corres- 
pondent, but I'm currently involved in film 
support work around El Salvador. It is very 
important to me to connect my films with 
political activity in its highest form of ex- 
pression — a war of liberation. 

But now I also want to make fictional 
films. Documentaries cannot convey what 
fictional films can. They can capture the 
external aspects of an event, but only a fic- 
tional film can convey the experience in 
emotive, personal terms. I would like to 
integrate documentary reportage of the 
Nicaraguan experience into a fictional film 
about participants and observers. I'm in- 
venting a woman journalist to serve as the 

My experience as a woman director has 
been somewhat different from my experi- 
ence as a woman producer. I won my repu- 
tation as a producer in a gradual, incre- 
mental way; directing was something else 
again. It involved treading on more mascu- 
line territory because, from the other side 
of the camera, you have to assume all the 
responsibility. If I had held myself to my 
perfectionist standards, I wouldn't have 
been able to do anything. So I've learned 
to take risks. It hasn't been easy. 

(continued on p. 50) 


I was most aware of the potential diffi- 
culties of being a woman filmmaker when 
I first started out, but once I actually be- 
gan working as a director, it didn't seem to 
make a bit of difference — at least not to 
colleagues or crew, though perhaps I have a 
different relationship to the people I film. I 
sense a closer rapport. Perhaps it's a fe- 
male capacity for empathy, or perhaps it's 
not a generic but rather a personal trait. 

Macho attitudes persist in Peru, as they 
do everywhere in Latin America. Financ- 
ing and distribution arrangements can be 
more difficult because many men are re- 
luctant to do business with a woman. I 
have the advantage of an established repu- 
tation; things are much harder for a wom- 
an who is just starting out. 

I was never meant to be a filmmaker. I 
came from the upper middle class. I was 
raised to be a good housewife, period. My 
family didn't even let me attend the uni- 
versity. With my divorce came the desire to 
break out of the closed circle of bourgeois 
life. I decided to do what no Peruvian 
woman had yet done — to become a film 

Initially I had no definite political views 
or commitments, only a vague sense of 
quest. The most important thing I have 
gotten out of my experience has been an 
ideological awakening, the product of my 
work both as a director and as an official 
of SITIC (EI Sindicato de Trabajadores de 
la Industria Cinematografica — the Film 
Workers' Union). 

If at first, predictably, I looked at film 
as a personal, individualistic form of ex- 
pression, I now see it as a much more so- 
cial mode. I trace the change in my ap- 
proach back to 1970, when I was hired by a 
psychiatrist to make a documentary about 
curanderismo (folk healing) in the Peru- 
vian Amazon. In our preliminary discus- 
sions, the doctor and I concurred in our 
desire to minimize the exoticism which 
characterized most treatments of the jun- 
gle region in favor of a more responsible 
presentation of the social problems which 
exist there. We agreed to present curande- 
rismo as simply the practice of medicine in 
impoverished conditions. 

The experience on that documentary 
was crucial in formal as well as method- 
ological terms because I learned how to 
use the medium to penetrate a complex 
social situation. Ten years later, I continue 
to be involved with this region and its prob- 
lems, having just completed my first fea- 
ture there, El viento de Ayahuasca (The 
Ayahuasca Wind, 1983). 

After that initial experience in the 
Amazon, I went to the other geographical 
extreme. I spent two years high in the 
Andes, doing research and interviewing for 
a film called Runan Caycu (J Am a Man, 
1973) about the life of Saturnino Huillca, 
an indigenous peasant leader from Cuzco. 
(continued on p. 50) 

to produce a much more ambitious au- 
diovisual project: a history of the city of 
Caracas. Rather than using film as an aux- 
iliary medium, we decided to produce an 
integrated, but fundamentally cinematic 
spectacle. It was to be a kind of "happen- 
ing," an experiment in spectacle. The 
filmed portions, which reconstructed the 
history from the city's founding through 
the end of the nineteenth century, con- 
tained fictional segments as well as histori- 
cal reconstructions. Jacobo was the artistic 
director, supervising a number of film- 
makers on individual sequences. I was as- 
signed more sequences than I could direct. 
I already had one child at the time, and 
each time he got sick I had to abandon the 
sequence I was working on and let some- 
one else complete it. I did manage to finish 

The finished spectacle was divided into 
two parts, intended to run separately. We 
never even got to exhibit the second part, 
because barely two months after the open- 
ing, and despite the enthusiastic response 
from the public, the government cut off 
our funding. Though the show was not in- 
formed by any "ultra-left" ideology, we did 
try to awaken a nationalist consciousness 
and a desire to discover unknown aspects 
of national history. The government did 
not like the way we emphasized the role of 
the popular classes. No matter what the 
period, we always dressed the characters in 
peasant (campesino) dress. The govern- 
ment also objected to the presence of the 
common people (pueblo) in the battle 

Despite its abrupt termination, Ima- 
genes de Caracas (Images of Caracas, 1966) 
was crucial to the development of Venezu- 
elan national cinema, because the majority 
of our filmmakers got their training there. 
We had about 60 people working on the 
project and, to this day, every one of us is 
still actively involved in film. We built all 
the sets and props ourselves. Those sets 
could, have constituted the nucleus of our 
national film studio, but because of the 
withdrawal of all funding, they had to be 

We subsequently organized a group 
called Cine Urgente (Urgent Cinema) with 
the intention of using film as a form of po- 
litical activity in the marginal and working- 
class sectors of Caracas. We made a num- 
ber of explicitly political films, which we 
exhibited in neighborhood centers, univer- 
sities, union halls, and casas de cultura. 
For us, cinema was. a pretext for political 
action. We made crude, spontaneous, im- 
perfect films, often without benefit of edit- 
ing or synchronous sound. We subordi- 
nated technical and artistic considerations 
to questions of immediate political expedi- 
ency. The experience served us well in both 
political and cinematic terms. The political 
group we were affiliated with was able to 
(continued on p. 50) 




Film Institute) had a background in film. I 
had studied psychology and was working 
as a secretary. As soon as the Sandinist 
forces came to power, we took over Produ- 
cine, a film company run by Somoza and a 
Mexican associate, Felipe Hernandez. We 
replaced Somoza's personnel with our own. 
I began as secretary to the Coordinating 
Commission. Two weeks later work began 
on the first documentary, a 45-minute 
videotape for television entitled La educa- 
tion no se interrumpio (Education Was 
Not Interrupted, 1979). The idea was to 
show parents that although children had 
not been able to attend class during the in- 
surrection, their education had continued 
even more intensively, because they had 
learned a great number of things that they 
could never learn in a classroom. 

I was asked to act as executive producer 
for this film and the first three INCINE 
newsreels. Three months later the Coor- 
dinating Commission made me head of the 
production department in charge of news- 
reels and documentaries, and that is still 
my job. I have spent the past several 
months in Cuba studying film production 
at ICAIC. 

express a sensibility different from men. 
We live in a society which expects men to 
suppress feelings which women are allowed 
to show, so we have an inherent advantage. 
Brazilian cinema, especially Cinema Novo, 
has emphasized "emotions" of the intel- 
lect. Brazilian audiences note a much more 
immediate sensibility in Gaijin, an intensi- 
ty of feeling and sentiment, and they asso- 
ciate this with the fact that the film was 
made by a woman. 

When Brazilians make films about the 
socioeconomic system, we tend to make 
bitter films which show the people as vic- 
tims. Though Brazil has a long cinematic 
tradition, I think that Cuban and Nica- 
raguan filmmakers are far ahead of us in 
this particular area. In Brazil our training 
is much more European; we make films 
according to the textbooks, believing that 
the camera movements and the editing 
have to be done just this way or that. Even- 
tually this becomes a handicap. We also 
belong to the Third World, where what is 
said is more important than how it is said. 
In countries like Brazil, Chile, and Argen- 
tina, which have not had successful popu- 
lar revolutions, filmmakers are under con- 



Two scenes from Gaijin: A Brazilian Odyssey 
(1980) by Tizuka Yamasaki. Photos courtesy of 
Asian Cine -Vision. 

.;.r\,<^''->5c*- , !<-jl 


stant pressure due to lack of time and 
funding. These difficult conditions severe- 
ly limit our creativity; aesthetics are the 
practical result of these conditions of pro- 

I am now convinced that the newsreel 
is the most efficient kind of filmmaking, 
because it offers technical apprenticeship 
to filmmakers, spreads culture among the 
people, and allows filmmakers to contrib- 
ute directly toward the reconstruction of 
their country. The Cuban and Nicaraguan 
newsreels are documents of a people re- 
constructing their country out of love and 
good will. You can sense the energy and 
reciprocal good will on the part of the film- 
makers. Clearly, there is no need for an 
"aesthetics of hunger" 5 in countries where 
popular revolution has triumphed. 

a friend arrived from Chile who had been 
imprisoned there, who was in her sixth 
month of pregnancy, who was suffering 
from all the symptoms of cultural displace- 
ment that I had also experienced, and who, 
in addition, had always wanted to be an 
actress, the idea for the film suddenly 
sprang forth. 

The screenplay was open-ended. The 
woman who played the lead was in fact 
pregnant, and to some degree the film's 
dramatic resolution depended on what 
happened when she came to term. For a 
while it looked like she would have to have 
a Caesarean. It was a minor miracle that 
they decided at the last minute to let her 
give birth naturally, and we were able to 
film the delivery. 

On one level, this is a simple, almost 
linear story of a woman who has been tor- 
tured and raped while imprisoned in Chile 
for political reasons. She becomes preg- 
nant and only succeeds in securing her 
liberty when her pregnancy is so far ad- 
vanced that abortion is out of the question. 
She is reunited with her husband and fam- 
ily in Finland, a totally alien environment. 

On a second level, the film inquires 
into the nature of the exile experience in 
general — the ever longed-for homecoming, 
for example, a phantom which haunts 
every exile, both as a kind of ideal and as a 
pretext for either avoidance or engagement 
in active struggle. 

Of course Gracias a la vida is also 
meant to denounce the situation of politi- 
cal prisoners in Chile, and particularly of 
the women, because torturing a woman is 
different from torturing a man. Men as 
well as women can show you scars from 
cigarette burns and demonstrate the psy- 
chological consequences of the barbarous 
treatment they have undergone. And male 
prisoners can also be raped. But their at- 
tackers cannot engender another human 
being within them, whereas a woman can 
be compelled to carry and bear the child 
of her torturer — which is neither his nor 
hers, but another, independent human 
creature, the product of the two. 

I think about the situation of the refu- 
gees from the Spanish Civil War. Though 
they held the image of their country in their 
memories, 40 years did not pass in vain, 
and today's Spain is not the Spain of 1939. 
Like the Spanish exiles, some of us Chile- 
ans will lose our "child" because we are in- 
capable of relating to it in a real, ongoing 
way. Others will return to a child whom 
they do not recognize. Still others will re- 
turn and find acceptance. It all depends on 
how you have nourished that relationship, 
on how well you have "mothered" your 

I'm now preparing another project, and 

this festival gives me the opportunity to 

discuss it with a number of people. My 

work is very directly related to Latin Amer- 

(continued on p. 50) 





I feel very confident in the group I work 
with (in Mexico), but outside that group I 
am aware of being regarded somewhat 
paternalistically at times. In Nicaragua 
such problems simply do not exist. I went 
there with a job to do and the skills to do 
it, and never felt myself the object of the 
slightest sexual bias. 

I am not the only woman filmmaker in 
Mexico. Marcela Volante has made a 
number of highly regarded fictional films. 
There are other, younger women cineastes, 
also trained at CUEC (University Center 
for Film Studies), who are just getting 
started. There's also a women's filmmak- 
ing collective now. One can see women be- 
coming more assertive, more questioning, 
more involved. 

Mexico is one of the few Latin Ameri- 
can countries where there is an active fem- 
inist movement. Although I am theoreti- 
cally in agreement with many of the tenets 
of feminism (on a number of issues it is 
impossible not to be in agreement), I don't 
participate in that movement because it 
makes me feel marginalized. I identify 
much more strongly with the kind of vitali- 
ty and power of the women of the dispos- 
sessed classes, who wage their struggles not 
in isolation but as part of the whole social 
fabric, with all its contradictions. I believe 
very much in the power of these women 
because I feel it; it is a living force. 

The last thing I want to say is that it is 
particularly difficult to be a mother and a 
filmmaker at the same time. I have one 
daughter, now 1 1 . While I was working on 
the second Nicaraguan film, she lived with 
my parents for a year and a half. I was only 
able to see her occasionally. There was a 
two-month period, when the war in Nica- 
ragua was at its fiercest, when no one had 
any news of me. Only after Somoza was 
overthrown was I able to call home and let 
them know I was safe. 

My daughter and I have a great rela- 
tionship. She has a special respect for me 
because she sees me doing exactly the same 
kind of things her father does. But family 
and even friends lay on quite a load of 
guilt, which is directed at me for my ab- 
sences, but never at her father for his. We 
mothers are still seen as the axis around 
which the child's world revolves. 


ica, immersed in that reality still, and fed 
by occasions like this one. For people like 
me who live in the "North Pole," it is es- 
sential to participate in encounters like 
these in order to renew ties with friends 
and colleagues, to leave behind purely in- 
dividual and geographic considerations 
and begin to think again about working 
more collectively. 


I had the opportunity to do the editing here 
in Cuba, at ICAIC (El Institute de Arte 
e Industria Cinematografica — the Cuban 
Film Institute). I had my first experience 
in a socialist country at a particularly trau- 
matic and telling moment: during and 
after the coup d'etat which overthrew the 
Allende government in Chile. What I wit- 
nessed was an inspiration. 

Back in Peru, I was immediately con- 
fronted with the government's decision to 
ban Runan Caycu. Fortunately, the Film 
Workers' Union was being organized at that 
time, and I became very involved, sitting 
on the board of directors until the organi- 
zation folded in 1976. During those three 
years the leadership became increasingly 
class-conscious, moving consistently left- 
ward in political orientation. Perhaps, 
looking back now, this was one of our mis- 
takes. As a union, we were unique because 
our membership consisted not only of film- 
makers and technicians, but also of critics 
and film students, businessmen and entre- 
preneurs, state film workers and projec- 
tionists. Given the variety of interests rep- 
resented, it was very difficult to meet such 
diverse needs. 

As one of the few professional film- 
makers in my country, I would say that if I 
have succeeded it is because I have dedi- 
cated myself fully to film. When I have had 
to look elsewhere for means of support, 
I've always made sure my work was film- 
related. For the last six years, I directed a 
film workshop at the university. This year, 
having resigned from teaching to work full- 
time on the Ayahuasca feature, I have 
managed to support myself on the income 
from my documentaries. The National 
Film Law requires exhibition of Peruvian- 
made shorts before the feature films in all 
commercial theaters, thus providing film- 
makers with a modest but more or less re- 
liable revenue. But whether or not one can 
earn one's living as a filmmaker in Peru is 
still a question that can only be answered 
from year to year. 

Julianne Burton, who teaches Latin American 
literature and film at the University of Califor- 
nia, Santa Cruz, is currently a Latin American 
Program Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Inter- 
national Center for Scholars in Washington, 

Born in Czechoslovakia, raised in Colombia, 
and educated in France, Zuzana Miriam Pick 
now teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa 
and is preparing a book on Chilean cinema in 

make some inroads in factories and popu- 
lar neighborhoods, and some of the footage 
we shot later found its way into more 
"polished" documentaries. Our example 
also sparked several similar projects in 
other areas of the country. 

Though many Cine Urgente members 
have begun to branch out into other areas, 
I continue to collaborate with some mem- 
bers of the original group, along with 
Franca Donda, an Italo-Venezuelan wom- 
an. From late 1972 through 1978 we worked 
together on a 35-minute documentary 
called Si podemos {Yes We Can) — a very 
rewarding project. The title for the film 
came from a spontaneous speech by a 
woman who argued, "If we work together, 
we poor people can defeat those who want 
to exploit us and demonstrate that yes, we 
can take power and govern ourselves." This 
speech marked the birth of a political party 
called MAS (Movement of Socialist Wom- 
en), and the phrase became the group's 
slogan. I have also finished another film 
with Franca, produced by Cine Urgente, 
called Maria de la Cruz, una mujer vene- 
zolana {Maria de la Cruz, a Venezuelan 
Woman) — the story of one day in the life of 
a woman of the barrio. 

At present I am working with some 
other companeras for the Associacion de 
Autores Cinematograficos (Filmmakers' 
Association), a group which includes all 
film-related workers: technical staff, exhi- 
bitors, film archivists, etc. This organiza- 
tional work is particularly crucial now, 
given the recent on-again off-again involve- 
ment of the national government with film 
production and regulation. 

Photo credits: Nora delzque and Berta Navarro 
by Zuzana Pick: Brenda Martinez and Ange- 
lina Vasquez by Julianne Burton. 

1. It is estimated that at least 400 people were 
killed in this plaza in downtown Mexico City 
when the government had the army attack stu- 
dents, workers, and bystanders during a non- 
violent public meeting. 

2. Founder of the Cuban Film Institute and its 
director from 1959 to 1982. 

3. One of Brazil's most respected, influential, 
and prolific filmmakers, Pereira dos Santos is 
credited with providing the generative impulse 
behind the Cinema Novo (New Cinema) move- 
ment, which flourished in Brazil from 1962 to 
1968 and, by some accounts, into the '70s. 

4. First prize at the Second Annual Internation- 
al Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, 
held in Havana in December 1980. 

5. The title and key concept of a 1963 essay by 
the late Glauber Rocha (a brilliant and polemi- 
cal theorist and practitioner of the Cinema Novo 
movement), sometimes referred to as the "Aes- 
thetics of Violence." 

6. Special mention at the Second Annual Inter- 
national Festival of the New Latin American 


[Accept no substitutesW 


In the reactionary times in which we live, Black women are being socialized into a 
conservative mindset. They are identifying with the white power structure (the 
oppressor) in politics, fashion, and career orientation. This mindset — imitating 
the "boss" — changed for a time during the Civil Rights Movement in the '60s. 
However, like the post-Reconstruction era when Blacks were forced to become 
subservient to whites again, many Blacks today have gone back to frying their hair 
to identify with the white power structure. -Loretta Campbell 

©1983 Loretta Campbell and Grace Williams 







Nina Fonoroff and Lisa Cartwright 

Over the past several years there has been a growing trend 
toward "new" uses of narrative by avant-garde independent film- 
makers. Work toward the development of feminist experimental 
film which breaks from a use of narrative altogether is being fore- 
closed by the currently popular use of narrative in film. 

Much feminist study has been devoted to the development of a 
discourse that addresses the ways in which narrative functions to 
reproduce the patriarchal order. ' Processes of identification (with 
camera point-of-view, with characters depicted within the film), 
temporal continuity, the "kind" of viewing required for narrative 
films, these are just a few aspects of narrative cinema that are 
called into question. With only a few exceptions, 2 however, little 
attention has been given to the possibility of a radical feminist 
experimental film — one that breaks from the use of narrative 

Writings on narrative films maintain that dominant cinema 
must be criticized from within (through further narrative work) in 
order to undermine its politically repressive impact. In light of 
recent work on narrative it is evident that this results in a deeper 
investment in the very principles that are ostensibly being sub- 
verted. The "new," "disjunctive," "deconstructive," and "oblique" 
narrative films employ the same old values of mainstream cinema. 
The belief (i.e., ideology)that there is a direct or natural connection 
between an image and what that image represents, between what is 
seen and what is known, is necessarily reinforced in narrative film. 
New narrative filmmakers do acknowledge this "obvious" relation 
as an ideological construct. Nevertheless, they fall back on a provi- 
sional acceptance of this "reality" in their own films. The confessed 
need for the particular pleasure provided by narrative has been 
overemphasized to the point of forcing an equation between narra- 
tive and pleasure, and, by implication, non-narrative and non- 
pleasure. This equation fails to acknowledge other less obvious 
possibilities for pleasure in film viewing and making, and rein- 
forces another "natural" connection — that which is understood to 
exist between film and narrative. As this work on narrative gains 
political credence and authority, narrative takes on the appearance 
of inevitability. 

The development of feminist experimental work which at- 
tempts to break from a use of narrative altogether has been sup- 
pressed by the principles upheld in mainstream cinema, but now 
the same principles are also being employed within an avant-garde 
that originally set out to oppose the mainstream. Due to the grow- 
ing indifference to non-narrative, experimental film, younger film- 
makers barely stand a chance of hearing more than the most 
reduced version of its history, and only the most determined will 
succeed in producing experimental films in an emerging cultural/ 
political climate that increasingly inhibits the development of such 

Audience: The Prophet Motive 

Proponents of the new narrative argue that if a film departs too 
radically from familiar narrative elements, the audience will 
decrease and the film will be consigned to obscurity, limiting its 
potential for large-scale political effectiveness. It is assumed that 
the most effective means to undermine mainstream cinema is to 
preserve selected narrative elements, within which departures can 
be made. The idea is that one elicits a set of accustomed formal 
viewing expectations, all the better to shatter them. 

Here makers of new narratives find themselves in the perfect 
double-bind. A need for a break from narrative is nobly acknowl- 
edged by filmmakers but deployment of narrative "form" is justi- 
fied by a saving grace: political content. That their films depend 
on the very principles being questioned is leniently excused — 
silenced — by a liberal audience, sympathetic to the filmmakers' 
avowed radical intentions, and willing to overlook the discrepancy 
between these intentions and the actual films. 

The work of British filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Peter Wol- 


len is indicative of this trend toward greater accessibility — and 
toward a classical use of film. Laura Mulvey has stated: 

. . . we see each film we make as potentially reaching a wider 
audience than the one before. . . . I don't feel that AMY \ breaks 
new ground in the way that Riddles [of the Sphinx] did. But at 
the same time it's more accessible and consumable, and in that 
sense it could appeal to a wider group of people. 3 

The first Mulvey/Wollen feature, Penthesilea (1975), attempts to 
replace the structuring device of narrative with theoretical and 
historical text. The film is divided into four formally different 
sequences, addressing the Amazon legend and women's place in 
patriarchal language. Their second feature, Riddles of the Sphinx 
(1977), again reflects feminist concerns, highlighting the issue of 
women's place in language from the position of the mother. This 
film, too, is structured by formally distinct sequences. Each 
sequence, however, is a narrative within itself, providing the basic 
framework of a diegesis, character development (however limited), 
temporal continuity, etc. AMY! (1980) provides an even less altered 
version of narrative, offering a feminist rendering of the story of 
aviator Amy Johnson. The film's linearity is broken only intermit- 
tently by short interludes such as a poetic stop-action bird-in-flight 
sequence, or a mapping sequence. Crystal Gazing (1982), their 
fourth feature, is a narrative film in the strict sense. Its avant- 
garde function can be read only in the content "side" of the film: 
It is about "surviving in London in the 80's," 4 and deals with the 
issues of Thatcherism and rock-n-roll. Interestingly, this classical 
narrative is also the first of their films that does not focus on the 
central issue of patriarchy, but instead pictures the present rela- 
tions of capital in London. With British Film Institute funding of 
$140,000, its rendering of a desperate political climate brings into 
question their own position within that climate. 

The issue of economic survival is of paramount importance, 
and the move to narrative reflects this concern. As funds for film- 
making become scarce, it becomes increasingly difficult and risky 
to depend on granting systems for support. Much current work is 
done with a view toward marketing potential: Larger budgets, 
"better" production values, and more topical themes all signal the 
move toward making films that are commercially viable products 
— lifted from obscurity to greater "public acceptance," from small 
film-screening spaces to art-movie houses, a step away from com- 
mercial houses — and, by design or default, a shift from a concern 
for the possibilities of new uses of film to a concern for marketa- 
bility and accessibility. These "formally accessible" films require 
the sophisticated tools of mainstream cinema to effect the degree 
of illusion necessary to be read familiarly. This shift toward a use 
of expensive, accessible form for political content is apparent in 
the Mulvey/Wollen films. One also sees it in Sally Potter's move 
from the relatively low-budget Thriller (1979) to her epic drama 
Gold (currently in production), budgeted at $230,000; and in Bette 
Gordon's move from Empty Suitcases (1980), a film (falsely) her- 
alded as both experimental and feminist, to her currently in prog- 
ress highly-funded production Variety, a disjunctive narrative 
about pornography. 

True, one might conclude from this upward mobility of the 
"avant-garde" that, finally, new avant-garde filmwork is being 
acknowledged with funds. But a more accurate reading might be 
that the avant-garde is formulating its own "new" Hollywood 
through private and government money. This situation is neither 
new nor advanced. 

We are not suggesting that the audience should never be con- 
sidered in making films. But it is hazardous to endow the audience 
with a limited understanding or tolerance and to thereby assume a 
limit of intelligibility within a film, beyond which it will be too 
obscure to sustain people's interest. And this fallacy often goes 
unchallenged — is excused and even justified by an avant-garde 
audience sympathetic to the filmmakers' political intentions. With 

© 1983 Nina Fonoroff and Lisa Cartwright 

such unequivocal trust, the filmmakers assume a position of omni- 
potence; they are allowed a condescending attitude toward their 
potential audience. The questions most often raised concern "what 
they want" and "what they need to know," in a style resembling 
market research. The fact that filmmakers are playing into a 
romantic myth of the artist as prophet/mentor is never stated. And 
the vague conjectures about the limit of tolerance within film 
remain the dividing line in this hierarchy, implicit in the films and 
in discussions about them. 

"But the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. " 5 

One strategy in the new films that is supposed to subvert tradi- 
tional narrative is quotation, often taking the form of written or 
spoken text within the film. In an effort to undercut the seductive 
power of the image, voiceover narration literally speaks ideas 
developed out of Marxism, psychoanalysis, and semiotics. Con- 
stance Penley has stated: "Images have very little power in them- 
selves; their power of fascination and identification is too strong. 
That is why there must always be a commentary on the image 
simultaneously o/and with them." * 

The work of Jean-Luc Godard has been a source of inspiration 
for many filmmakers who employ this strategy. A case in point is 
his film Le Gai Savoir (1968), in which media images, acted 
sequences, documentary-style sequences, and political theorizing/ 
poeticizing are intercut and overlapped in a dense intertextual 
montage. Spoken/written language is intended as commentary on 
and analysis of the ideology manifested in the images. The inclu- 
sion of a multiplicity of elements purportedly provides a prime 
situation for a more dialectical viewing: The greater the amount of 
elements placed before us, the greater the number of juxtapositions 
of meanings can occur. Knowledge of Godard's intentions for a 
more dialectical viewing situation, however, fails to effect that 
experience. In watching the film we are provided with a complicat- 
ed picture or model of dialectics — with a confusion of relations 
between image and image, image and sound, sound and sound. 
But this presentation never addresses the complex dialectical rela- 
tion between image and meaning — the actual workings of repre- 
sentation within and through images. 

Yvonne Rainer's Journeys from Berlin (1979) also provides a 
dense intertextual construction, and Sigmund Freud's Dora (1979), 7 
although its combination of texts is less dense and more clearly 
readable, works in much the same way. Such films, which speak a 
criticial, historical, or theoretical tract, compound rather than 
subvert the power of fascination and identification exerted by film 
images. The use of texts drawn from other areas obfuscates the still 
untouched relation between the image and what that image is 
intended to represent. A text can go no further than to instruct us 
within its own terms, providing, literally, a reading of the function 
of images. Further, to assume that discursive language breaks the 
hold of images is to assume that the spoken text is without its own 
powers of seduction. The authority of voice/voice of authority com- 
pounds the authority of image. 

"Quotation" is also used in films in the form of references: to 
the films of a particular director; to the filmmakers' own past 
work; and to popular genres of both Hollywood and non-main- 
stream narrative film. The work of Amos Poe (Subway Riders, The 
Foreigner, Unmade Beds), Beth and Scott B {Vortex), and Manuel 
de Landa (Raw Nerves) all reflect the current interest in film noir. 
Particularly in the case of Raw Nerves and Subway Riders, Chris- 
tine Noll Brinckmann and Grahame Weinbren see a radical depar- 
ture from the genre that inspired them, and indeed from narrative 
form itself, through these films' inclusion (and exclusion) of ele- 
ments that render them opaque. Opacity is distinguished from the 
principle of transparency that is at work in mainstream films: 

Traditional narrative is based on the rule that all elements 
should combine to form a unity, that each element should have 

its proper, intelligible place in the text and that an ending be- 
fore the text has succeeded in integrating and explaining them 
all would be an untimely one indeed. The new narrative ignores 
this rule. Opacity, quotations from all sorts of sources without 
stating what their relevance might be, and the fluctuating sta- 
tus of sequences as fiction or non-fiction are evidences of this. 8 

Opacity indicates self-consciousness on the part of the filmmaker, 
thus foregrounding his/her presence within the work. It also indi- 
cates the presence of critical/theoretical work: 

Opacity often leads the viewer to assume the presence of theo- 
retical groundwork and therefore to look for it, and it also 
signals an inexhaustibility to the work, an idea that it needs 
repeated screenings to be understood to any degree. But the 
sense of opacity often remains even after the theory has been 
understood. This grows out of a general toleration these films 
have for loose ends; and the general opposition to the notion 
that every element of a text should be accounted for by the text. 
The opacity is, in many cases, no more than the impossibility of 
accounting for some of its elements. 9 

The writers go on to imply that the theoretical underpinnings of a 
film are often difficult to grasp; and, although opacity is not dis- 
cussed here in relation to transparency, one assumes that it is 
intended to set up an experience whereby there is limited possibil- 
ity for identification because the relationship between reality and 
what is being represented is called into question. Instead, the 
authors link "opacity" with "unaccountability" as though certain 
elements of the story were omitted, disrupting the customary 
cause-and-effect relation between events, but only to the extent 
that leads the viewer to wonder about — and search for — the miss- 
ing parts. One wonders whether "opacity" here isn't being used 
synonymously with "obscurity" and "inscrutability" — which would, 
in the end, leave the viewer in the same relation to the film as 
would a Hollywood noir film wherein some key moments in the 
drama were arbitrarily omitted. The authors go on to say: 

. . . opacity can become a reassuring quality for the viewer, con- 
vincing her or him that everything is, after all, in its proper 
place, that the artist remains in control by making use of mech- 
anisms that are not fully apparent to the audience. Opacity 
gives one the idea that theory is behind the film, clear to the 
filmmakers, and that therefore everything in the work is moti- 
vated, and that it is worthy of trust. And this, in turn, justifies 
the opacity. A neat circle of opacity, motivation, trustworthi- 
ness, justification, acceptance, and again opacity. 10 

It seems ironic that a theory intended originally to prescribe an 
active viewing possibility, directed toward criticism and question- 
ing of motivation and the process of viewing itself, should now be 
called upon to produce a very different effect: trust, unequivocal 
acceptance of what is presented because the filmmaker "knows 
what he/she is doing," and, ultimately, yet another case of invest- 
ment in the myth of the artist as mentor/prophet. The foreground- 
ing of the filmmaker: the cult of personality. 

The inscription of theory in many of the new narratives makes 
a certain kind of analysis not only possible, but necessary. The 
confusion between the problems specific to film theory/analysis 
and film practice has led to a use of literary analysis as a primary 
mode of film viewing. The success of the film is measured by how 
well it illustrates a particular issue, which can then be subjected to 
analysis. In turn a particular theoretical take is required to under- 
stand the film, and a particular theoretical background is presup- 
posed. Reading a film as an illustration of literary ideas has come 
to be regarded not only as a possible means for knowledge of a 
certain kind in certain films, but as the means, par excellence, for 
certain knowledge in/of all film work. 

In this scheme, the filmmaker and the critic/theorist have 
entered into a curious symbiotic relationship, in which the film- 


maker buries a bone that the critic, at some later point, can un- 
earth. Many recent narrative films function as setups for critical 
analysis: Theoretical discourse becomes the subtext of the film, 
which becomes a sitting duck for the critic, whose reading was pre- 
pared beforehand. Films that play on such a symbiotic relation- 
ship seem to suggest that nothing new can be done in film — that 
the best a contemporary filmmaker can do is to repeat endless 
variations of old forms. " 

In the absence of characters with whom to identify, the sophis- 
ticated avant-garde film spectator now identifies within a body of 
knowledge, within theory. The dramaturgy of traditional narrative 
has simply been supplanted by a grammaturgy of theoretical prin- 
ciples. The traditional story has been replaced by a larger story — 
theory. The "story" becomes even grander when the psyche of the 
filmmaker is brought into the picture as a subject to be analyzed 
conjointly with the film. The theory of psychoanalysis is used as a 
cover, merging the respective narratives of the filmmaker's psyche 
and the film itself into an aggregate "case history." 

Shifting Signifier 

Another strategy that is supposed to challenge traditional nar- 
rative codes is that of thwarting character development. The depic- 
tion of human beings with elusive identities allegedly serves to 
subvert empathy and identification between the viewer and the 

The device of the "shifting signifier" is commonly employed in 
new narrative films. Yvonne Rainer's Film About a Woman 
Who. . . (1974) and Kristina Talking Pictures (1976) are two early 
films which experiment with this device as a strategy for breaking 
the power of character identification. Gordon's Empty Suitcases is 
a later use of this device in which the pronoun "she" is used, in 
voiceover narration and intertitles, to refer to a number of different 
female protagonists, all of whom appear on the screen at different 
times and in different settings. Since no cohesive story is built 
around a central protagonist, an ambiguity develops in regard to 
the identity of "she" at any given point in the film. The female 
characters thus become interchangeable with one another. 

Instead of the highly developed characters presented by main- 
stream cinema, we now have an assortment of appearances, sem- 
blances and archetypes. What takes place is a "shattering" of 
character in which each fragment carries the earmarks of the 
whole that engendered it. 

The use of the archetype claims to bring about an awareness of 
the archetypal nature not only of the characters within the par- 
ticular film, but also, by implication, of all filmic depiction of 
human behavior. As a reduced model, the archetype supposedly 
facilitates the process of analysis and dissection for the viewer. 
Identification is no longer elicited through empathy with a char- 
acter undergoing conflict, but through the vicarious experience of 
style. Instead of a real break with unity of character, we are left 
with a multiplicity of reduced archetypes, with "whom" we can 
still identify, albeit in a more ambiguous way. But ambiguous 
processes of identification still remain processes of identification. 

From whence the supposition that analysis precludes seduction? 

Laura Mulvey's article "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cine- 
ma" 12 advanced feminist film study by proposing a political use of 
psychoanalysis in the study of mainstream narrative cinema. It was 
not a prescriptive theory for film practice. 13 Her emphasis is on the 
use of psychoanalysis to reveal and dismantle the workings of 
patriarchy within narrative cinema, especially in regard to repre- 
sentations of women in subservience to the male gaze. 

Gordon's Empty Suitcases and Jackie Raynal's Deux Fois 
(1970) have been cited as films that address this problem. In the 
case of Raynal, the filmmaker turns the camera on herself, at 
times defiantly staring into the camera — at once the object and the 
subject of her own gaze, at once "male" and "female." This simul- 
taneous engagement with and critical/analytical relation to her 
own image is intended to promote the viewer's awareness of — and 
therefore rupture with — the problematic seductive nature of the 
image. Yet a picture of a seductive woman "tells" us nothing about 
the nature of pictures, seduction, or women. Without prior knowl- 


edge of the theory behind this sequence, it is doubtful whether one 
will read it as against seduction. If anything, the "male" nature of 
the gaze is reinforced by such a strategy. Analysis, bearing no 
relation to the film itself, is what prevents this scene from function- 
ing as it would in any mainstream film. 

The interruption or disjunction of the narrative line is yet 
another strategy employed to undermine the viewer's engagement. 
This tactic is evident in the fractured narratives of such films as 
Empty Suitcases which, rather than breaking with narrative, pro- 
vides multiple, limited narrative developments in an endless defer- 
ral of completion. This process is intended to unfix meaning, 
opening up multiple readings and disengaging the viewer from the 
drive for completion, yet providing enough narrative satisfaction. 
But how long can a story continue before something takes place; 
before some specific meaning is produced? This strategy assumes 
a calibrated model of narrative, in which the viewer's engagement 
(and subsequent fixing of meaning) occurs only at certain intervals. 
The filmmaker functions as manipulator, intermittently leading 
on and closing off the viewer. This kind of withdrawal tactic 
assumes that the only moment when "something" takes place is at 
the instance of climax — a dangerously mistaken assumption. The 
comparatively straightforward appeal of mainstream narrative has 
taken on a coy seductiveness in these altered versions, veiling the 
operations of narrative in a game of hard-to-get. Complication is 
simply posing as dialectics. 


The term "diegesis" has considerable currency in discussions 
about narrative film. "Diegetic" elements within film are defined 
as those elements that take place "naturally," within the world 
constructed by the story of the film — i.e., any situation, thought, or 
dream that is plausible within the context of the constructed fic- 
tion. "Nondiegetic" elements, on the other hand, are those that 
constitute other "information " that falls outside the realm of the 
film's fictional world (i.e., Hollywood background music). The 
dividing line between diegesis and nondiegesis is growing increas- 
ingly blurred, it is said, in new narrative films. 

The very concept of diegesis presupposes that a separation can 
be made between a kind of para-reality and what are obviously 
nonrealistic materials, all within the same experience of watching 
the same film. This model fails to account for the fact that a film 
establishes its own terms, its own context. What is constructed, 
therefore, sets the terms of its own reality as film. Everything that 
takes place within a particular film is by definition "diegetic" — it 
belongs to a particular framework which may be modeled in the 
image of the everyday world but which nonetheless becomes some- 
thing different, on the level of experience, once it is placed within 
the film-viewing context. There is a fundamental misunderstand- 
ing about the nature of film in the very designation of diegetic and 
nondiegetic elements. "Blurring" a nondistinction seems absurd. 
As far as non-narrative filmmakers are concerned, the only non- 
diegetic moment occurs when the film stops, and the film-viewing 
experience is over. 

The idea of "blurring distinctions" forms the cornerstone for 
discussion of recent developments in narrative film. Diegesis/non- 
diegesis, fiction/nonfiction, form/content, personal/political, 
objective/subjective — how did these elements gain the stability as 
fixed categories to be expressed as pairs of opposites, and then to 
be posited as "blurred distinctions"? To accept such distinctions 
as more than what they are {terms of convenience), one must first 
accept narrative convention as the very foundation of all film prac- 
tice. We do not accept this precondition: We believe it is necessary 
to shatter this conceptual framework in order to proceed with film. 


The case for narrative film is based on the belief that a film 
practice cannot develop "out of the blue"; ,4 that one has to start 
somewhere, within the history of film. Yet a history, theory, and 
practice of non-narrative feminist experimental film is not only 
possible, but already exists. From the experimental work of Ger- 
maine Dulac, rarely shown and often overlooked in favor of her 
more commercial, narrative films, to current work such as that of 

Su Friedrich and Leslie Thornton in the U.S., and that of Lis 
Rhodes in England, it is evident that feminist non-narrative exper- 
imental film can be made. 

As with any other area, experimental film is not without its own 
specific problems, which need to be addressed within the terms of 
feminism. A fratriarchy of experimental film has developed with 
its own standards of "quality" to protect, with an absolute faith in 
certain principles and ideals, which themselves mirror patriarchal 
ideology. The North American structural film movement, for 
example, took the ideal of a positivist science as its starting point, 
and the work of Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, George Landow, 
and others relies heavily on the aims and methods of that discipline. 

In these films it is evident that the answer being sought, the 
object of the experiment, is inscribed in the very questions asked: 
The "knowledge" to be gained is determined in advance. The very 
terms of this film practice, the set of rules that govern it, delineate 
and restrict the area of inquiry, and thereby foreclose the possibility 
of any result that was not already known from the outset of the 
process. The ideal of pure Science, applied to film, provides no 
guarantee of freedom from the ideology inscribed within the very 
materials of film. On the contrary, it reflects the patriarchal ideol- 
ogy from which it originated, and which it continues to serve. 

Another development, the "lyrical" or "visionary" film (i.e., 
Stan Brakhage), posits a world in which an entirely new set of 
physical and social principles is in operation. In a pseudo-naif 
search for a more "pure" vision, a return to an unadulterated 
mode of seeing, visionary filmmakers exempt themselves from 
the responsibility of examining and challenging the very myths and 
ideals of an ideology which they buy into in their use of the tools of 

Men who have sought a break with the cinema of the past have 
launched unified theories, positing fixed methods and procedures. 
We are loath to posit an argument that would assert, definitively, 

the last word — the ultimate strategy — in a long history of attempts 
at anti-illusionist filmmaking. We mistrust the sense of conclusive- 
ness implicit in the very act of assertion. The nature of experi- 
mental film belies any attempt at a fixed method or procedure; the 
work needs to proceed in a manner that assumes no ultimate end, 
no goal for film outside of the real materials and conditions of film 
itself. By proposing a feminist film practice, we are necessarily 
proposing an experimental method — a method that questions the 
very grounds of film, assuming nothing as given but the materials 
of film themselves — not simply film stock, camera, etc., but es- 
pecially the processes and relations of filmmaking and film-viewing. 
This reflects the desire not to reproduce already-existing represen- 
tations, which have been immeasurably limiting and damaging to 
us. The present impossibility for women to represent themselves 
properly, accurately, has led to an awareness not only of the inade- 
quacy of the aims and intentions of dominant cinema but also of 
the impossibility of its main task: to represent. We wish to finally 
acknowledge this impossibility and to move on to a use of film that 
attempts no mastery of meaning, assumes no ultimate knowledge 
of reality through film. For film will fail to advance any under- 
standing of these problems unless it first deals with the complex 
problems within the terms of film: 

Film first of all has to function in cinematographic terms as 
any art or science must operate in reference to the development 
of their particular mode of expression. This does not evacuate 
"content" as it assumes it to be a preliminary question what 
film- content could be, and to study, contrive, invent the precise 
ways it could be inscribed infilm. ls 

In order to do this it is necessary to open up the possibility for 
the making and viewing of films that provide a "kind" of plea- 
sure that does not depend on the patriarchal narrative mode (nor 
on its inverse in the form of a "neo-feminist" use of film for "dif- 





Couleurs mSchaniques (1979) by Rose Lowder 


ferent" representations of women). A use of film that breaks with 
the patriarchal foundation of sexual division is necessary for femi- 
nist filmwork to proceed. 

The ultimate impossibility of film in its use for patriarchy — the 
problematic lack of correspondence between image and meaning, 
between the real of film and that of other areas of life — is no longer 
a cause for lament, but a source of relief and inspiration for women 
working in film. 

1. The writings of the Camera Obscura Collective, Claire Johnston, E. Ann 
Kaplan, and Mary Anne Doane are just a few instances in a long line of 
different approaches to deconstructing/analyzing narrative within an 
avant-garde context. 

2. Constance Penley, Felicity Sparrow, Lis Rhodes, Nancy Woods, and Su 
Friedrich are a few women who have begun a written feminist discourse 
addressing the problems and possibilities of experimental filmwork for 

3. Interview with Laura Mulvey by Nina Danino and Lucy Moy-Thomas, 
Undercut, no. 6 (Winter 1982-83), p. 11. 

4. Ad copy from film journals. 

5. Samuel Beckett, III Seen III Said (New York: Grove Press, 1974). 

6. Constance Penley, "The Avant-Garde and Its Imaginary," Camera Ob- 
scura, no. 2 (Fall 1977), p. 25. 

7. A film by Claire Pajaczkowska, Jane Weinstock, Andrew Tyndall, and 
Anthony McCall. 

8. Christine Noll Brinckmann and Grahame Weinbren, "Mutations of 
Film Narrative," Idiolects, no. 12 (Fall 1982), p. 28. 

9. Ibid. 

10. Ibid. 

1 1 . "Theory films" that function as studies in Marxist, psychoanalytic, and 
semiotic analyses make redundant what already exists in dominant cinema. 
This redundancy becomes evident when we note that these theories have 
been applied with equal success to new avant-garde narratives and to old 
Hollywood narratives — particularly those of the '40s and '50s, in which the 
operations of seduction are so visible as to have provided perfect case 
studies for such analysis. 

12. Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," Screen (1974). 

13. This article has been used as a plan of action not only for feminist film 
theorists, but for filmmakers, though it offers no plan of action for the 
production of films. 

14. Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure." 

15. Rose Lowder, "Reflections on Experimental Film" (1982, unpublished). 

Nina Fonoroff is a filmmaker living in New York City. 
Lisa Cartwright is a filmmaker living in New York City. 




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Adynata (1983) by Leslie Thornton 

C Girls (1981) by Jan Stott 

Cathy Joritz 

The quiet release of Personal Best last spring stirred intermit- 
tent outrage and excitement in the lesbian, gay, and women's 
press. Never before had Hollywood depicted women with such 
strength and commitment. Never before had lesbianism been con- 
sidered a real possibility — without the usual adornments of maso- 
chism, self-loathing, or suicide. Yet in the same film lesbians were 
sadly trivialized; and as usual the male characters intervened, re- 
suming control of the women and their lives. 

In an unfortunate oversight by these publications, criticism was 
generally directed at the film's director, Robert Towne, and the 
film itself, but never took aim at the mass media's coverage, which 
influenced much of the initial reception and final opinion of the 
film. Newspaper and magazine articles, gossip-rag columns, TV 
previews, and advertisements were all extremely important fore- 
runners of the audience's response to Personal Best and, more cru- 
cially, of their consideration of its lesbian and bisexual characters 
and their relationship. 

Although the film's premise assumes the natural presence of 
lesbian women, the media focused solely on the sensational. They 
falsely portrayed Personal Best as a film about lesbians and relent- 
lessly exploited the film's two celluloid emissaries , Patrice Donnelly 
and Mariel Hemingway. Moralistic, angry critics leaped onto spu- 
rious evidence, attempting to "prove" that the film is pro-lesbian/ 
anti-male propaganda, while liberal critics were most interested in 
Personal Best as the story of the maturation of a young woman 
temporarily gone astray. 

To voyeuristic, gossip-hungry writers, Towne supplied extra- 
ordinary, minute details of the women's considerably pampered 
preparation for the shooting of the "love scene." (This juicy infor- 
mation was presented as though the "unnatural act" of a very 
natural embrace would otherwise have been unthinkable.) Writers 
eagerly collaborated. They probed into Donnelly's and Heming- 
way's personal lives and cornered each into providing evidence of 
her heterosexuality. Hemingway complied. She dropped naive and 
insulting comments about lesbians and revealed with pride news of 
her role in an upcoming Playboy film. Donnelly recited well- 
rehearsed speeches about how she had to feign an attraction for 
"Mariel's character" while simultaneously denying that her own 
character (Tori) was a lesbian. Ironically, off screen, the actresses 
undermined the film's own assumption (that lesbianism is "no big 
deal") and consequently betrayed a potentially sympathetic audi- 
ence. A basic publicity sham was exposed. The unfortunate truth 
is that in every interview with Donnelly, Hemingway, or Towne, the 
off-screen sexuality of the women was unnecessarily challenged. 
Lesbianism was peered into and poked at like an undesirable, freak 

Personal Best provided an easy target for the sexploitation tac- 
tics of the man-handled media. Playboy printed a special two-page 
spread of stills from the film and usurped Hemingway's man- 
fetching film splits by posing her in the same manner but without a 
leotard. Rolling Stone followed suit with overhead body shots of 
the famous pose. As progressively more twisted reviews and leering 
photographs were published, the more screamingly apparent it 
became how easily men can control any publicly screened film, or 
any public event— and how effortlessly they conclude that the 
property was created solely for their base entertainment. 

Women filmmakers must be especially concerned about this 
dilemma if we want to work freely, without fear that men will 
©1983 Cathy Joritz 

plagiarize, distort, and destroy our images and films. Lesbian in- 
dependent filmmakers are in an extremely vulnerable position be- 
cause it is usually difficult and often impossible to control admit- 
tance to film screenings. (Many commercial and independent thea- 
tres do not allow "women only" access.) The filmmaker then faces 
the predictable spattering of bug-eyed gawkers in her predomi- 
nantly female audience. At best, these unwelcome men will pay 
their money, watch the film, and go home. At worst, they will take 
pictures (in an effort to sell sex-related scenes), write reviews, and 
hassle the women inside. Lesbian filmmakers must also confront 
enormous mass ignorance about lesbian sexuality and all the re- 
sulting defense mechanisms of the straight world. 

Personal Best proved to be far from an ideal film, but its release 
was an important warning to women of the kind of media treat- 
ment to expect when we unleash our own visions on an ill-prepared 
public. It also clearly indicates the bitter trials awaiting actresses 
who dare to accept lesbian roles — a lesson deliberately employed 
to keep women quaking with trepidation at the mere prospect. 
With this in mind, an environment must be established where 
creative women are assured VISIBLE support. 

It is all too easy to criticize a film (like Personal Best) for in- 
cluding a less than perfect feminist/lesbian content; but our anger 
at the film must be sustained beyond the point of initial outrage. 
Women must aim their sights higher and channel rage into effec- 
tive and enduring action. We must remain alert and defensive 
against the misogynist media and agree to write letters, make 
phone calls, throw eggs, drop bombs, whatever, so that strong and 
free work is produced. Only through indefatigable rebuttal and an 
uncompromising stance will any change occur. Women must pave 
the way for each other. 

Photo from BOND/WELD (1982) by Cathy Joritz. Through combining 
personal footage and images of notable straight and lesbian women, this 
film attempts to create a joyful view of lesbians while humorously shatter- 
ing some media misrepresentations. 

Chicago filmmaker Cathy Joritz currently lives in West Germany, where 
she is working on a new film, playing drums in a women's band, and riding 
daily at an all-woman's stable. 


Loretta Campbell 

"... those motion pictures made for thea- 
ter distribution that have a Black produ- 
cer, director or writer, or Black performers 
that speak to Black audiences or inciden- 
tally to white audiences possessed of pre- 
ternatural curiosity, attentiveness or sensi- 
bility toward racial matters, and that 
emerge from self-conscious intentions, 
whether artistic or political, to illuminate 
the Afro-American experience." 

— Thomas Cripps, Black Film as Genre 

The women interviewed for this article 
are responsible for part of this definition — 
they illuminate the Afro- American experi- 
ence. Ranging in age from early twenties to 
late forties, they have worked as indepen- 
dent filmmakers for two to 10 years, mak- 
ing documentaries, feature films, short fic- 
tion films, or videotapes. Each woman was 
asked a number of questions (see box). I 
have selected, within each question, the 
answers that seemed most representative. 
If several women concurred in their exper- 
iences or opinions, their responses may be 
represented by one or two comments (so as 
to avoid constant repetition). 

As artists who remake and create 
images in response to the socialization pro- 
cess, these filmmakers are pioneers. They 
are essentially retelling history — casting 
the heroines in our own image. The role 
models for their films are all of us. 

Melvonna Ballenger: My first role models 
were, of course, my mother, grandmother, 
and aunts — women who kept going no 
matter what the consequences were. Also 
my father, grandfathers, my extended 
family. I don't think we give enough credit 
to the people who helped us through the 
process of growing up in this society, 
through the everyday routine living situa- 
tions that brought us to where we are to- 

day. They are the role models. As for indi- 
viduals, I respect people like Toni Morri- 
son, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James 
Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, etc. — Black 
writers who bring those everyday situations 
into a deeper focus so that we can relate 
similar experiences. 

I admire people who have the courage 
to bare all — fictional or nonfictional, some- 
times positive, sometimes painful, some- 
times joyful and oftentimes private experi- 
ences — to the public. There are numerous 
Black writers, men and women — in the 
past (Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hur- 
ston, Ralph Ellison) and in the present— 
who are and were sensitive to the simple 
things in life that become complex when 
one is trying to express them to others. 
They try to make us all aware of being sen- 
sitive to others and ourselves. There are 
role models walking down the street every- 
day, riding on the bus, or at the grocery 
store. Their spirit or lack of spirit keeps 
me moving on in a positive direction. There 
are so many role models and they provide 
the inspiration for my films. 
Ayoka Chenzira: Syvilla Forte (the subject 
of my film Syvilla: They Dance to Her 
Drum) was a role model, a reinforcement 
for unsung Black heroines. My mother 
also was a role model. Thomas Pinnock, 
my husband, the choreographer and danc- 
er, is also a role model for me. 
Kathleen Collins: My father, now deceased, 
was my role model. In some ways every- 
thing I do in my life is for him. He was an 
extraordinary man. I was taught I could do 
anything I wanted to do. I just had to do it. 
Mother was a role model also, as was my 
sister. I think my mother was my best ally 
— both parents were. 
Cynthia Ealey/Lyn Blum: Without advo- 
cating teenage pregnancy, we believe that 
the women in our tape are role models. We 

Questions in Survey 

1. Do you produce, direct, and edit your own films? 

2. Are you a full-time filmmaker? 

3. Have you applied for or received a film grant? 

4. Do you use scripts and write them yourself? 

5. Do you have an apprenticeship program for crew members? 

6. Do you have staff members to assist you with the administra- 
tion duties involved in promoting the films? 

7. Are films by Black women a specific genre? 

8. Are you in contact with other Black women filmmakers 
and the filmmaking community? 

9. Do you have a networking system? 

10. Do you have any experience in experimental film forms? 

11. Are you an independent filmmaker? 




























wanted to show how hard their struggles 
are and yet how well they are coping. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: I have a great deal of 
respect for my mother's generation of 
Black women. They worked and raised us 
— whole families — alone, and had to en- 
dure watching their men made crazy or 
turned into alcoholics, etc. They seemed to 
be able to retain more of our Afro-Ameri- 
can values; today you can see Black people 
really assimilating Western sexual mores, 
and a real division seems to be happening, 
where Black people identify with every 
other kind of movement as opposed to the 
survival of Black people on this planet. I 
also look to our historical figures for in- 

Edie Lynch: My role models are Ralph El- 
lison, the director Vittorio DeSica, and 
multifaceted artists such as Maya Ange- 
lou and Gordon Parks. 
Fronza Woods: I don't have any role mod- 
els as such, but there are people I admire 
and who have influenced my life. Some of 
them are close friends, some are public 
personalities. If I were to draw up a list 
today, it would include my mother, some 
close friends, Bill Moyers, Gregory Jack- 
son, Lena Home (as an older woman), Bar- 
bara Jordan, George Steiner, Myles Hor- 
ton, Malcolm X, and Georgia O'Keefe. We 
have more real heroes and heroic people in 
this country than we acknowledge. 

The films made by these women focus 
on women's stories — teenage unwed moth- 
ers, stereotyped images of women in socie- 
ty, Black women's hair care, biographies 
of dancers, Black male-Black female rela- 
tionships, and more. Often these are 
themes not depicted in mainstream cine- 
ma. By creating and promoting our own 
images on film, then, these women offera 
counterimage to the stereotyped Hollywood 


Fronza Woods. Photo by LonaO 'Connor. 


image of Black women that Blacks must 
eradicate. It is perhaps the "fight fire with 
fire" theory of reeducation. Kathleen Col- 
lins and Jacqueline Frazier both com- 
mented that they use experiences from 
their own lives as subject matter for their 
films. Jean Facey, however, prefers making 
documentaries, drama, and children's 
material. Her ideas are "generated from 
news, cultural events, historical informa- 
tion, and personal experience." Other 
women suggest a similar kind of mix. 

Melvonna Ballenger: Personal and imper- 
sonal experiences inspire me the most. 
What I mean by that is that I try to utilize 
certain events in my own life or in the lives 
of people around me whom I know, or in 
my family, or events from anyone's life 
that I might find interesting, and weave 
the story out of that onto film. "Imperson- 
al" experiences are important, too, in that 
I am concerned that our Black lives, our 
history, its richness and versatility, seems 
to go unnoticed and is not considered im- 
portant enough for a "majority audience." 
Therefore, we don't see many meaningful 
and positive Black images on TV and film 
screens today. I try to use certain themes 
that in one way or another relate to a rea- 
sonable amount of the Black audience 

Ayoka Chenzira 

(transcending class, color, nationality, 
etc.), as well as to a wider non-Black audi- 
ence. I guess the best way to do that is to 
draw from what you know best — from your 
own life and the lives of those whom you 
admire and who have qualities that are 

Cynthia Ealey/Lyn Blum: We have made 
only one tape (on teenage pregnancy), with 
no intentions of making others. Our in- 
spiration came from the remarkable way 
the young women in our group took care of 
themselves and their babies, accepting 
responsibility, working hard to figure out 
the system, etc. Also, we knew the kinds of 
tapes that were currently available for 
young women (mostly made by adoption 
agencies, by white filmmakers and white 
agencies, about young white women). We 
wanted to give the women in our group the 
chance to tell their stories, with the oppor- 
tunity to do away with some of the myths 
and stereotypes. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: My art comes out of 
the African experience historically, and, to 
date, it has dealt with the effect of Western 
culture. It's a look at the Eurocentric 

."■"A. , i^-.'ll 
Thelma Hill in Remembering Thelma (1981) by 
Kathe Sandler. 

world view on Black people. So far the 
theme of "blind" assimilation of Western 
culture and values operates in both Your 
Children Come Back to You (societal val- 
ues) and A Different Image (Western sex- 
ism). My latest project, The Kitchen, will 
mirror the Black community's almost total 
acceptance of white beauty standards. I 
believe it is important not only to mirror 
my community but to create images that 
will initiate dialogue/analysis and make 
people aspire to a different way of life. I 
feel we must constantly question the Euro- 
centric values that are being imposed on 
people of color. Interestingly enough, I 
find this Eurocentric view among the poli- 
tical left. 

Edie Lynch: I am interested in simple hu- 
man conditions. Seeing an old man and 
woman walking down the street, hand in 
hand, could make me want to document 
"Loneliness" or "Growing Old Together." 

Fronza Woods: I like films about real peo- 
ple. I am inspired by almost everything but 
especially by struggle. I am interested in 
people who take on a challenge, no matter 
how great or small, and come to terms with 
it. What inspires me are people who don't 
sit on life's rump but have the courage, 
energy, and audacity not only to grab it by 
the horns, but to steer it as well. 

Given that mainstream cinema is in- 
herently exclusive of Third World people 
and women, the first decision to be made 
by these filmmakers was whether to force 
their way into this industry or create an al- 
ternative cinema. These women chose the 
latter option. 

Melvonna Ballenger: I am an independent 
filmmaker, and by choice. First of all, 
there doesn't seem to be much demand by 
the major studios or big independent pro- 
duction companies to really invest or take 
a chance on even more established direc- 
tors and producers, the more established 
Black male directors, producers, writers, 
etc., let alone lesser known or unknown 
Black women directors, producers, writers, 
and then get behind those people and pro- 
mote their product. So I never really put 
all my energy into trying to become a "Hol- 
lywood" director or producer, film or tele- 
vision go'fer. I think that as an independent 
producer or director, you have a little more 
control over the product's content. Not so 
many hard-core salaries, jobs, union regu- 
lations, etc., are caught up into the film. 

There seems to be more of the blood, sweat 
and tears of the people on your crew who 
are interested in what you have to say on 
film or whatever you do creatively. On the 
other hand, you can run the "experience" 
thing into the ground. Anything you do 
enough times, paid or unpaid, will become 
"experience" in some way or another. It 
would be nice to pay talent and crew mem- 
bers a regular salary at least on a minimal 
basis, so that filmmaking doesn't become 
a weekend interest, job, or hobby. As an 
independent filmmaker, it is important to 
have your investment returned — but it 
takes so long. If your film does well, say in 
rental requests, it still might take years to 
get your initial investment back. But it also 
provides exposure for you and the relief 
and achievement of having a film that is 

Jean G. Facey: At this moment I am an 
independent filmmaker because I am just 
getting started. I do believe, however, that 
my choice will be to remain independent. 
In so doing I will be free of many of the con- 
straints that would be placed on me from 
established production companies. If I re- 
main independent I will be afforded great- 
er latitude and flexibility. 

Jacqueline Frazier: First I was indepen- 
dent by necessity, and now I am by choice. 
Spending my own money on films gives me 
freedom to say what I want or what I think 
needs to be said about Blacks without hav- 
ing to water it down for producers or an 
audience that might get "offended." Also 
the movie industry has a big "who you 
know" syndrome and, unless you're 
backed by a studio, it's hard to raise 
enough money to make quality Black films. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: I am part of the inde- 
pendent Black cinema movement. I believe 
it is important for Black people to control 
their own image. Black people working in 
the established "Western" film industry 
do not have the power that we have. It is 

Forte and Chenzira in Syvilla: They Dance to 
Her Drum (1979) by Ayoka Chenzira. 

important that progressive and aware 
Black people be there to keep a check on 
Hollywood, but we must continue to build 
our own institutions, especially those in 
education and the media. 

It is obvious that the fight against exist- 
ing pernicious images requires money for 
ammunition. I submit that this money is 
not readily available for Black women 
filmmakers. The films they want to create 
are considered counterculture because they 
deliberately refute the standard images of 
Black experience and, in so doing, inval- 


idate the socialization process. Since the 
process rewards only those who support it, 
funding sources have little interest in films 
by and about Black women. 

Fundraising for Black women film- 
makers carries the double burden of the 
indifference of white funding agencies and 
the lack of sophistication of Black funding 
agencies. Kathe Sandler, for example, 
spent two years raising the money for her 
film Remembering Thelma — money to 
complete and publicize her film. She 
approached a Black magazine at one point 
for funding and was told that there was no 
audience for a film about a Black woman. 

Funding for these filmmakers, then, is 
a combination of money raised from 
grants, working, and donations. Frequent- 
ly a filmmaker uses her own money to 
make a presentation film (a part of the in- 
tended work) to show the funding agen- 
cies. If they like what they see, they fund 
the rest of the project. It helps if you have a 
reputation, of course, so that money will be 
easier to raise — though that doesn't always 
mean much. Carol Lawrence found that 
her filmmaking could not even convince 
Black businessmen to finance her films. 
"They never understood films — either as 
investment or tax shelters, "she said (Black 
Enterprise, Sept. 1982). 

The average length of time between 
completing one film and beginning anoth- 
er seems to be two years. It should be 
noted that none of the women interviewed 
make a living as filmmakers. Many make 
their "real" living in other professions. For 
example, Collins teaches at City College, 
Facey works as a registered nurse, and 
Chenzira is the Arts Administrator of the 
Black Filmmaker Foundation (BFF). 

Of particular interest is the support 
that these filmmakers receive from family 
and friends. All specified that parents, 
spouses, or siblings had made donations of 
time and money to their projects. 

Because there is limited interest from 
the public, what money there is (usually 
earned through a full-time job) has to be 
used expertly. Many hats have to be worn 
by these filmmakers, including budgeting 
the money once it is raised. But the re- 
sponse of all these women illustrates the 
capacity they have for making it through. 

Melvonna Ballenger: My primary source of 
funding comes (slowly) from working, 
loans, and donations. Although there have 
been extremely few opportunities for me to 
work professionally in a salaried position, I 
consider myself a full-time filmmaker be- 
cause of my training, interest, and experi- 
ence in producing films. How do I budget 
my films? Through hard work, experience, 
and the lack of experience. Right now, the 
major part of my budget goes of course to 
film stock, production costs — feeding the 
crew, transportation, props, etc., and lab 
costs. Salaries are nonexistent. Actors do- 
nate their talent because of course they 
can't afford the expense of having some- 
thing filmed or videotaped merely to show- 


case their talent to an agent, etc., and for 
the chance to use their craft. Crew mem- 
bers donate their skills in a specific area — ■ 
sound, lighting, etc., for the opportunity to 
gain and increase their skills. And the 
director or producer — myself? Well, I try 
to pool the talent together with the crew 
and work out my concepts and the script 
and hopefully — because I'm learning too 
— come up with something close to the ori- 
ginal idea. So, yes, it is something learned 
from experience and of course you have to 
have some idea of the techniques and 
equipment within your access and availa- 
ble resources to do a good job and end up 
with a good and creative product. 
Ayoka Chenzira: Black women filmmak- 
ers are often funded through government 
grants and women's organizations — 
NYSCA, The Eastman Fund, Astraea 
Foundation, etc. I am presently working at 
the BFF and am able to support my film- 
making comfortably. It is politically very 
dangerous to believe that the only way to 
make films is to have a huge budget. That 
kind of thinking is pushing Blacks out of 
the market. One of the ways a filmmaker 
can finance a film is to trade off the ser- 
vices. For example, crew members may 
work for low wages in order to use the 
experience on a resume, or as a school cre- 
dit. Crew members might also be filmmak- 
ers themselves and ask that a favor be 
done for them in return — like working on 
their film. 

Kathleen Collins; I teach film, write plays, 
and make films. I raised money for my 
first movie myself. Using that money, I got 
a grant for the second one, Losing Ground, 
which was sold to European television. I 
don't expect to get a lot of money in Amer- 
ica to make the film, so I will try for a Eur- 
opean-American co-production (with Ger- 
many, Italy, or London). My budget is en- 
tirely pragmatic — it is based on how much 
money I get. My partner, Ronald Gray, is 
primarily in charge of our budget and fi- 
nances. Half the battle is the look of the 
film, and if you have a really talented part- 
ner and a good script and good acting, you 
have half the battle won before you need 
the money. It shows that you know how to 
run the ship. Very few people know how to 
run low-budget movies. Ronald and I 
taught ourselves how to do it. We received 
an American Film Institute grant and a 
New York State Council on the Arts grant; 
individually we each received Media grants 
from the National Endowment for the 
Arts; and Ronald received a Creative Arts 
Public Service grant. 

Cynthia Ealey/Lyn Blum: Even during the 
making of our one tape, A Mother Is a 
Mother, Lyn and I did other things as well. 
I was paid to work on the tape 20 hours a 
week, Lyn was paid to work 10 hours a 
week, and we both worked a lot of volun- 
teer hours during the year it took to make 
it. We worked on it sporadically. As a co- 
operative organization, we have budgeted 
[the Childcare Resource Center] for a 

Edie Lynch 

number of years, and we used those same 
skills for budgeting the tape. We had a few 
thousand dollars of program money left in 
our organization budget; not enough to 
begin a new group but enough perhaps to 
start the videotape. We also received mon- 
ey from Unity Settlement Association, a 
local money-giving organization for "wor- 
thy" causes. 

Jean G. Facey: I divide my time between 
practicing as a Registered Nurse and mak- 
ing films. I have obtained funding from 
friends and resources, and have deferred 
many expenses, such as lab costs. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: I must work full-time 
outside film to support not only myself but 
my film work as well. I have worked as a 
temporary secretary for businesses and 
arts organizations. I have taught in arts-in- 
education programs and I currently teach 
kindergarten in an independent Black in- 
stitution. I also fund my films through 
loans, small grants, community raffles, 
awards, and family support — through in- 
kind services such as transportation, cater- 
ing, acting, the use of homes for sets, small 
donations, and their faith, support and 
pride in me and my work. Since I don't 
start with a large sum of money, my bud- 
geting process is different. There seem to 
be two schools among independents: Wait 
until you have all the money or shoot what 
you can when you can. I shoot what I can 
when I can. If I were waiting on a major 
grant to do a film, I'd still be waiting and 
I'd have no films. I apply for grants as a 
yearly and painful fall ritual — that's why 
this questionnaire is so late being an- 
swered; I have two grant applications due. 
To date I personally have received no 
major grants. The Black Filmmaker Col- 
lective received a small grant from the 
Foundation for Community Service to pro- 
duce a video (cable) program on the effects 
of stereotypes on children. 
Edie Lynch: I learned the hard way. In the 
beginning, I think, we all try to save money 
in the wrong areas. Now, if I don't have the 
money for a good cameraperson, lighting 
director, or sound person, I don't shoot. I 
budget $1,000-3,500 a minute, depending 
on whether it's color or black and white, 
and count $5,000-10,000 for surprises. 
Kathe Sandler: Funding is almost nearly 
impossible for young independent film- 
makers. Black filmmakers are in the most 
trouble of all here. Recently a representa- 















tive from a major federal funding source 
for film told me that a documentary I was 
planning on a particular aspect of Black 
American life was passe, dated, it remind- 
ed her of the '60s. Her remark made me 
realize that she was simply stating what 
many other funding sources feel but won't 
say: that they view anything concerning 
Black America as passe, that in 1982 we 
generally cease to exist, except in stereoty- 
pical images, in the minds of mainstream 
America. Still I apply to the sources most 
independents try— CAPS, NEA, NEH, 
NYSCA, AFI, etc. To date I haven't re- 
ceived any funding from them. To com- 
plete Remembering Thelma I took out 
plenty of loans. I also received a $1,500 
grant from the Women's Fund — Joint 
Foundation Support, Inc., and a small 
grant from the Brooklyn Arts Cultural As- 
sociation. A good friend steered a $1,500 
tax-deductible contribution my way. Later, 
when the film was nearly completed, I soli- 
cited funds from the dance community, 
which responded to my efforts to document 

m cuasz 

Alile Sharon Larkin 

Thelma Hill's life most enthusiastically. 
James Truitte (Thelma Hill's mentor and 
friend) initiated the contributions by send- 
ing a check and a list of names of friends 
of Thelma's whom he suggested I write. 
They responded with checks and more 
names. One former student of Thelma's 
sent me a check for $250 and 10 more peo- 
ple to write for contributions. 

Joan Myers Brown, the Executive Di- 
rector of the Philadelphia Dance Company, 
gave the film a benefit in Philadelphia and 
arranged a special screening for her com- 
pany and students. That was probably the 
best audience I've ever encountered— 
young students and dancers and members 
of the Philadelphia dance community. 
When the film was first completed, I had a 
big benefit at Clark Center for the Per- 
forming Arts where Thelma had taught for 
15 years. Dancers, choreographers, stu- 
dents, teachers, and friends (Thelma's and 
mine) came out. I raised about $1,000 that 
night. So, the support from the dance 
world was really tremendous. 
Fronza Woods: Good budgeting is learned 
from training and experience. However, 
most Black or independent filmmakers are 
hardly in a position to get the kind of pro- 
per training, nor do their projects usually 
warrant it. My films were budgeted with a 
kind of ass-backward common sense that 
worked. Any woman who has managed a 
household can budget a film. Men have to 

Screenings of these women's films are a 
problem. Although all these filmmakers 
screen their work at festivals, theaters for 
showing films by Black filmmakers {whe- 
ther independent or commercial) are near- 
ly nonexistent. On the other hand, white 
filmmakers do have space, and often they 
are required by the funding sources to give 
screening space to minority filmmakers. 
Still, Black filmmakers have to request the 
use of the space well in advance, and often 
last-minute changes prohibit the screen- 
ings altogether. In addition, Black audi- 
ences do not support independent cinema 
the way they support commercial cinema. 
Few Blacks, if any, go out of their way, 
e.g., "downtown," to see Black indepen- 
dent films. Moreover, often the screenings 
are not well publicized. In any case, it is 
unfair to expect Black filmgoers to go out 
of their neighborhoods to view their own 

It is organizations like the Black Film- 
maker Foundation and Third World 
Newsreel that have been instrumental in 
screenings for these filmmakers, here and 
abroad. Black filmmakers have been able 
to premiere their work at many festivals, 
thereby attracting buyers and, vitally im- 
portant, an audience. Still, the audience 
has to be cultivated in order to increase. 
According to film archivist Pearl Bowser, 
Black people need to be "cultivated" to 
appreciate and support their cinema. In- 
terestingly, Kathleen Collins has stated 
that European audiences are especially 
appreciative of Black independent cinema: 
"Europe has a tradition of more personal 
filmmaking thriving outside the main- 
stream than in America. Personal film- 
making {what Americans call independent 
cinema) is a longstanding tradition in 
Europe. European audiences are more in- 
terested in unusual Black subjects. " {Since 
this article deals only with Black American 
filmmakers, there is no information about 
their Black European counterparts. It is 
possible that they are victims of the same 
kind of indifference to their art in Europe 
as their American sisters are in the United 

Melvonna Ballenger: I screen my films 
mainly at festivals, and currently I distri- 
bute my own films. I'd be more interested 

in getting a distributor in another year 

Sometimes people are indifferent, and 
other times they really respond to the mes- 
sage in my first film, Rain. But I am eager 

to see the reaction to my second film, 
Nappy-Headed Lady, to see if it will stimu- 
late discussion about the issues presented 
in the film. 

Cynthia Ealey/Lyn Blum: We screened the 
tape in our community, making it acces- 
sible for community people to attend. The 
audience reaction to our tape has been 
very positive — most people have liked it a 
lot. We have had some constructive criti- 
cism. On the whole, people believe it to be 
good and want to use it. 

Kathe Sandler: The audience response has 
been very enthusiastic — particularly 
among dancers and artists. Film has a very 
broad appeal. This year, my first real year 
of distribution, I intend to promote it to 
Black audiences, feminist audiences, 
cultural audiences, to children, schools, 
and libraries. Perhaps the film will one day 
pay off the loans I borrowed to make it. 
Whatever it took, though, it's been the 
most important and exciting undertaking 
I've ever done. 

Fronza Woods: My films have been 
screened at private homes, in film festivals, 
and for New York City high school stu- 
dents participating in the Lincoln Center 
Film Society's Artist in the Schools pro- 
gram, for which I am a guest filmmaker. 
Audience reaction to my films has been 
very favorable, especially toward Killing 
Time, a comedy, which is more accessible 
to the public than Fannie'sFilm, which re- 
quires a real commitment by the audience. 
It is interesting that although Fannie 's 
Film is about a Black woman, often white 
people in the audience will tell me how 
much she reminds them of their mothers 
or grandmothers, and will be quite moved 
by the film. It is not unusual to find people, 
especially older people, with moist eyes 
after Fannie' s Film. 

Pearl Bowser has referred to a particu- 
lar aesthetic in Black films which makes 
them distinct enough to constitute a genre. 
This aesthetic encompasses the themes, 
the politics, and the technique {documen- 
tary, narrative, or experimental) of the 
filmmakers and the films. I asked the 
women filmmakers in the survey to com- 
ment on this and to expand on what they 
consider to be the Black aesthetic in their 
own films. 

Melvonna Ballenger: I feel that as Black 
women we have a certain experience in this 

Kathleen Collins (left) and Seret Scott in Losing Ground (1982) by Kathleen Collins. 

country and maybe we are addressing our 
particular needs, issues, and concerns more 
fully in relation to the whole Black popula- 
tion, as well as the general population. I 
notice several films, like Sharon Larkin's 
A Different Image, Barbara McCullough's 
Fears Don't Have toBe, Ijeoma Iloputaife's 
African Woman, Karen Guyot's .Pas Si Bo, 
and Julie Dash's Illusions, as well as my 
own film Nappy-Headed Lady and a whole 
host of other films, are all dealing with our 
own identity in some way. I don't think 
that was really a priority among Black 
women until now, when we might possibly 
have a few more choices to be, do, and find 
out who we are than, say, our grandmoth- 
ers and our mothers, who had a whole lot 
to contribute and teach us, so that we 
might take up where they left off in the 
preservation of our culture. I guess films 
by Black women bear our own world view 
and perspective, but don't necessarily ex- 
clude views of Black men and children. 

Kathleen Collins: Yes, I would think that 
there is a Black aesthetic among Black 
women filmmakers. Black women are not 
white women by any means; we have dif- 
ferent pasts, different approaches to life, 
and different attitudes. Historically, we 
come out of different traditions; sociologi- 
cally, our preoccupations are different. 
However, I have a lot of trouble with this 
question because I do not feel that there 
has been a long-enough tradition. I think 
we are just getting to the stage where we 
are becoming masters of the craft. 

Cynthia Ealey/Lyn Blum: Black women's 
films are few and far between, but of 
course they have a distinguishable style. 
Black women are free and open and realis- 
tic. The artfulness of our films, our songs, 
our poems, our books are definitely dis- 
tinguishable from others. 

Jean G. Facey: I do not see the need to dif- 
ferentiate between Black and white or 
woman and man as a specific genre. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: Films by Black wom- 
en could be seen as a specific genre, but 
one would find, on classifying them as 
such, that our films touch on every genre. 

Fronza Woods: No, the only thing Black 
women filmmakers have in common is that 
they are Black. They are still making films 
about human beings. I don't think they 
(we) should be locked into that category or 
genre, if you want to call it that, because it 
limits us, our audience, and the way we are 

/ asked the women whether they were in 
contact with other filmmakers and the re- 
sponse was mixed. A few of them associate 
professionally or personally/socially. Sev- 
eral belong to Black filmmakers' groups, 
such as the LA Black Filmmaker's Col- 
lective (BFQ and Blacklight: A Forum for 
International Black Cinema, in Chicago. 
Sometimes, if they cannot afford to pay for 
technical services on a project, they trade 
services with each other. They also share 

information on grants, screenings, books, 
etc., as Melvonna Ballenger noted. 

Kathleen Collins: I am not really in con- 
tact with other filmmakers. To be quite 
honest I do not think of myself as a film- 
maker in some ways. I am a filmmaker 
when I am making a movie. The rest of the 
time I might think of myself as a play- 
wright or a writer. I think of these things 
as what I do when I get a good idea and I 
want to do something with it. The rest of 
the time, I am just another person walking 
down the street. I sort of take on the occu- 
pation of whatever I am doing at that time. 

Alile Sharon Larkin: I attended UCLA 
film school at a time when the Black stu- 
dents were primarily women. I have at- 
tended conferences nationally and interna- 
tionally where I have met and spent much 
time with other filmmakers. I've sat on 
panels and done radio interviews with 
other filmmakers. I'm also a co-founder of 
the BFC in LA, and a member of Black- 
light and the Black Filmmaker Founda- 
tion Distribution Co-op. 

Edie Lynch: I see the work of other Black 
women filmmakers and we often help each 
other with facilities, etc. 

Fronza Woods: No, I am not in touch with 
other Black women filmmakers, much to 
my regret. Networking is not as easy as it 

My reasons for writing this article are 
probably obvious — / am just as hungry to 
see my image on the screen as these women 
are. In addition, I want to interest others 
in their films, in the hopes that they can 
gain more of an audience. It is my belief 
that the rewards for these women are 
greater than the drawbacks. We are ren- 
dered visible by them. There is power in 
having our images documented in the most 
powerful medium — film. It is ironic that 
Black people spent over $40 million last 
year on movies, according to the NAACP, 
but we are seldom, if ever, seen on screen 
as we really are in life. Further, the Black 
exploitation films of the '60s rescued the 
Hollywood film industry from certain 
bankruptcy, but 90% of Black actors are 
unemployed (Black Enterprise, Sept 1982). 
and only two Black directors worked on 
known projects last year — both are men. 



Rain (1982; now on video only, 15 min.): A 
young clerk-typist changes her routine lifestyle 
for a more fulfilling one, with rain as a meta- 

Nappy-Headed Lady (1983; 16mm, 30 min.): 
How Yvonne endures hair straightening and 
then changes her hair in coming to appreciate 
her Blackness. 


Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum (1979; 
16mm, 25 min.): A documentary portrait of 

Syvilla Forte, a Black concert dancer and teach- 
er. (Distributor: BFDS) 

Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy- Headed People 
(1982; 16mm, 10 min.): An animated satire on 
redressing the legacy of Eurocentric beauty 
standards. (BFDS) 

Secret Sounds Screaming: The Sexual Abuse 
of Children (1982; 3/4" video, 40 min.): Diverse 
women show this issue's relation to power and 
societal support. (BFDS) 

Flamboyant Ladies Speak Out (1982; 3/4" 
video, 30 min.): A documentary on Black wom- 
en artists who participated in the 1981 Disarma- 
ment Rally. (BFDS) 


The Cruz Brothers and Mrs. M alloy (1980; 
16mm, 60 min.): A comedy about three Puerto 
Rican brothers and a dying Irish lady. (Coe 

Losing Ground (1982; 16mm, 86 min.): A 
musical comedy on a Black woman's quest for 
identity. (ICAP) 


A Mother Is a Mother (1981; 3/4" video, 27 
min.): A speakout by Black teenage mothers 
about their lives. (BFDS; Childcare Resource 
Center, Minneapolis) 


Happy Birthday, Dr. King (1983; 16mm, 25 
min.): A documentary on efforts to honor Mar- 
tin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. 


Hidden Memories (1977; super-8, 20 min.): 
A woman who has an abortion and the problems 
with her family and lover. 

Azz Ezz Jazz Ensemble (1978; 3/4" video, 30 
min.): Billy Harris' music and his songs about 
his children. 

Black Radio Exclusive Conference (1978; 
3/4" video, 30 min.; co-produced with G. Vel- 
Francis Young): Live coverage of a Los Angeles 
conference of all-Black radio station managers, 
DJ's, and bands. 

Shipley Street (1981; 16mm, 30 min.): The 
racism and physical abuse experienced by the 
only Black girl in a Catholic school. (BFDS) 


Your Children Come Back to You (1979; 
16mm, 27 min.): The assimilation problems of a 
Black girl torn between Western and pan-Afri- 
can values. (BFDS) 

A Different I mage (1981; 16mm, 51 min.): A 
fictional film about the destructiveness of West- 
ern sexism. fBFDS) 


Lost Control (1976; 16mm, 45 min.): Men 
and women confined in prison environments 
talk about drug problems. (BFDS) 

Mister Magic (1977; 16mm, 30 min., bi- 
lingual): The dreams of Mexican children, por- 
trayed by transforming their schoolroom into a 
magic show. (BFDS) 


Remembering Thelma (1981; 16mm, 15 
min.): A documentary on Thelma Hill, a pillar 
in the development of Black dance in America. 


Killing Time (1978; 16mm, 8V2 min.): A 
comedy about suicide. (BFDS) 

Fannie's Film (1980; 16mm, 15 min.): A 
documentary profile of a Black cleaning woman. 

Loretta Campbell is a freelance writer, proof- 
reader, and copyeditor living in New York City. 

I say to you: The future belongs to the 
film that cannot be told. The cinema can 
certainly tell a story, but you have to re- 
member that the story is nothing. The story 
is surface. The seventh art, that of the 
screen, is depth rendered perceptible, the 
depth that lies beneath the surface; it is 
the musical ungraspable. . . . The image 
can be as complex as an orchestration 
since it may be composed of combined 
movements of expression and light. 1 

Sitting with her at the table, talking, 
her hands are poised over the typewriter. 
The words in our minds turn between de- 
scription and analysis — to write an image, 
or to write about an image. This will be a 
subjective gathering of threads of mean- 
ing, a drawing of your attention to the 
spaces between four films that are dense 
with connections and difference; rather 
than forcing each woman into a false isola- 
tion, a separation from each other deter- 
mined by history as it is written — as it has 
been read — to mean meanings other than 
HERS. Seen together the whole program 
of four films becomes a specifically con- 
structed fiction in itself; through looking 
at and listening to the relationships be- 
tween the filmmakers — their stories — new 
meanings emerge. 

We shall try to make explicit the links 
and fractures between the four films made 
by different women, whose lives and work 
belong to different languages, but whose 
voices are always placed within similar 
constraints — constraints that we are famil- 
iar with but upon which most women are 
allowed no time or space to reflect. 

. . . the idea came from the experience 
of sharing a kitchen with two men. 
Through realizing, over a period of 
time, specific things that they didn't 
notice, I was able to crystallize my own 
responses to particular tasks, particu- 
lar parts of this room. . . . I discovered 
several areas {often very small) within 
the kitchen that I was very aware [were] 
becoming dirty, and enjoyed — or rather 
was urged — to clean. I developed a spe- 
cial relationship to these "corners"; I 
enjoyed the materials that constituted 
them and felt the repetitive cycle of 
things becoming dirty — the way each 
part became dirty and the different 
methods of cleaning. I became more 
aware of this as I realized that the men 
had no understanding for it. Why? Was 
it education? My conditioning as a 
woman? Was it to do with me in partic- 
ular? Or is it just part of "women's 
nature"? 2 

Traces made, traces removed; a woman 
is caught in mid-sentence, often during the 
day. The traces of sound from a radio, as a 
newscaster's voice surfaces and sinks in a 
burble of music, remain peripheral and 
obscured by the unnaturally loud sounds 
of tea being poured and bread being cut 
repeatedly throughout the film. Often 
During the Day opens with a series of still 
images of a kitchen, photographs that have 

©1983 Lis Rhodes and Felicity Sparrow 

A House Divided (7973) by Alice Guy 

The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923) by Germaine Dulac 

Light Reading (1978) by Lis Rhodes 

Often During the Day (1979) by Joanna Davis 

Lis Rhodes and 
Felicity Sparrow 

The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923) by Germaine Dulac 

been delicately hand-tinted by the film- 
maker. A woman's voice is heard describ- 
ing a particular kitchen space through its 
geography — with which she is intimately 
familiar — and through the various activi- 
ties taking place within it. The room is 
referred to as the center of the house, and 
the voice describes the traces left by users 
of the kitchen (the spatterings of food left 
on the floor after the cat has finished eat- 
ing; the little pieces of hair washed from a 
razor after a man has finished shaving). 
She reflects on the task of cleaning and 
repair, the "small unnecessary" tasks, the 
caring for a space. 

When we first constructed the sink 
there was a gap between the enamel 
part and the wooden drawers that sup- 
port it. The gap worried me because I 
saw [that] water trickled onto the things 
in the drawers. The others didn't no- 
tice, or didn 't mind, and it took me sev- 
eral months to do anything about it. 3 

The attention given to a domestic space 
that Joanna Davis speaks of seems to avoid 
a strict definition of housework — the un- 
paid servicing that it usually implies — and 
centers on her pleasure. It is a pleasure 
that is expressed in relation to certain sur- 

faces and textures, "the way each part be- 
came dirty," and the placing of things. A 
different pleasure — the satisfaction of a 
job being done — is described by another 
voice, a man's, reading extracts from the 
testimonies of women's reflections on 
housework as catalogued in The Sociology 
of Housework. 4 Written extracts from this 
book also appear on the screen explaining 
and rationalizing this apparently obsessive 
behavior in terms of "collective standards." 
This conflict — can pleasure be pleasing if 
that pleasure can be seen as oppressive? — 
is expressed by the filmmaker through 
images showing the continual violation of 
her feelings for the space. In the final shot 
of the film, a long continuous take, the tea 
is poured, the bread is cut. An arm reaches 
across a woman's body to reach the butter. 
SHE refolds the paper carefully after he 
has used it. Their consumption leaves 
traces: a scattering of crumbs on the sur- 
face of the table, the stain of tea leaves on 
the draining board. Disturbed by the 
crumbs, she interrupts her meal to wipe 
them up. 

This sense of impingement is con- 
firmed by the quotations from The Soci- 
ology of Housework, which rest within the 
film as uneasily as the news from Armagh 


and the song "Dancing in the City." . . . 
The printed words emerge, on screen, from 
a thin veil of tissue paper with an authority 
Joanna Davis is extremely wary of. Perhaps 
it is to enforce this distance from her own 
experience that a man's voice reads the 
passages, just as the women quoted from 
the book are defined by the men to whom 
they are married: a carpenter's or lorry 
driver's wife. In Often During the Day, the 
woman is not socially placed by a particu- 
lar man; the issues of sexual and economic 
control are recognized rather than suf- 
fered, and the historical determinants that 
underlie her feelings of pleasure and anxi- 
ety toward domestic tasks can be analyzed. 

It is here that one of the central issues 
connecting the films is raised; it can be 
clearly seen in the different positioning of 
the women in Often During the Day and 
the two earlier films, The Smiling Madame 
Beudet and A House Divided. For Madame 
Beudet, it is not only the institution of 
marriage, but also the collusion of the 
Catholic Church in reinforcing that insti- 
tution, which is questioned. In A House 
Divided, Alice Guy approaches the domes- 
tic relationship as a civil bargain, the ex- 
ternal social control being secular rather 
than divine. The marital relationship of 
the couple is represented by the "house." 
The divine is privatized as romantic love, 
and now forms the fragile foundations of 
the "house." 

The bourgeois home depicted in A 
House Divided had already developed the 
characteristics of the industrialized family, 
with separate but supposedly equal spheres 
of work: the woman within the' home, the 
man outside. A similar division of work is 
apparent in the office, between the hus- 
band and his secretary. Thus the women 
are established as financially dependent, 
and their work is primarily concerned with 
providing service for the man. A misunder- 
standing, an assumption of mutual infidel- 
ity, shakes the foundation of the home; the 
house divides into silence. In a nice use of 
intertitles, communication between the 
wife and husband is via a series of notes 
carefully stored in ajar in the kitchen. The 
wife refuses to service the husband. The 
marriage bargain is broken and the humor 
in the film asserts itself, as a new "legal 
agreement" must be arranged. Only now 
can the wife reclaim her identity and in- 
dependence: She deletes the words "your 
wife" at the end of a letter and signs her 
own name (albeit her name by marriage). 
By contrast, the cheerful independence of 
the unmarried secretary is established 
early on; with a pencil precariously tucked 
into her pinned-up hair, her fingers dance 
in lively mimicry of typewriting. Surely 
Alice Guy must have directed those office 
scenes gleefully, remembering when she 
herself was secretary to Leon Gaumont. 

Daughter of a publisher, I had read 
widely and remembered a fair amount. 
I had done a bit of amateur theatricals 
and thought that one could probably 


do better. Arming myself with courage, 
I timidly proposed to Gaumont that I 
write one of two sketches and have 
them acted by friends. If anyone could 
have foreseen the course of develop- 
ment this would take, I would never 
have got this permission. My youth, my 
inexperience, my sex, all would have 
conspired against me. However, I ob- 
tained this permission, on the express 
condition that it didn't interfere with 
my secretarial duties. 5 



would have embarassed the men, who 
wanted to smoke their cigars and spit in 
peace while discussing business." 6 

The character is not the center of im- 
portance in a scene, but the relation- 
ship of the images to one another; and 
as in every art it is not the external fact 
which is interesting, it is the emanation 
from within, a certain movement of 
things and people, viewed through the 
state of the soul. 7 . . .Plot or abstract 

•if: :■=,* '} ■ .■ys&SkaM' 

jit *qj"Y f^iniiiP **• .. *- 

^Ws8m?~- , 18111 

Often During the Day (1979) by Joanna i 

A House Divided plays upon the wom- 
en's independence within dependency, and 
the husband's apparent independence — 
although, left to himself, he is incapable of 
even deciding whether or not to wear a 
raincoat! But for Alice Guy, rationality 
overcomes doubt, and the divided house 
can be restored to unity: The infidelities 
are no more than misunderstandings. The 
contract is reestablished; romantic love 
can reassert itself. The yawning chasms of 
difference which determine a woman's 
position within marriage— so accurately 
portrayed by Germaine Dulac ten years 
later — were not part of Alice Guy's prag- 
matic optimism and trust in "equality." 

Her determination and optimism were 
shared by many women at the time, in 
their fight for equal education, better 
working conditions, and the vote. However, 
this energy was rapidly dissipated by the 
outbreak of war, the ensuing nationalism 
and economic depression — and much of 
the work that Alice Guy and others had 
achieved was undermined. Her husband, 
Herbert BIach6, took over her production 
company in 1914. Outside producers were 
brought in, forcing Alice Guy out of the 
picture. She finally gave up going to pro- 
duction meetings because "Herbert said I 



.film, the problem is the same. To touch 
the feelings through sight and. . . to give 
predominance to the image. 8 

Some years before writing these words, 
Germaine Dulac made The Smiling Ma- 
dame Beudet. Its plot, the surface, was 
simply described by a reviewer sixty years 
later: "Madame Beudet is married to a 
bombastic idiot, refuses to go to the opera 
with him, dreams up the nearly perfect 
murder and, when it fails, gets away with it 
because of Monsieur's lack of imagina- 
tion." 9 But despite the simplicity of the 
plot, the film's intensity — its visual impact 
and depth of feeling — is achieved through 
an orchestration of emotive gestures and 
sophisticated special effects. Often de- 
scribed as the first feminist film, we share 
Madame Beudet's (and Germaine Dulac's) 
point of view throughout; her "voice," al- 
though silent, can only be that of the first 
person singular, as in Often During the 

"In a quiet provincial town. . . " Madame 
Beudet is isolated; 

". . .behind the peaceful facades . . ." she 
is trapped. 

Her gaze through the window is blocked 
by the view of the prison opposite; inward- 









ly she sees the reflection of that institution 
in her wedding ring. Locked within the 
niceties of a middle- class marriage, she 
struggles to maintain her sanity. The in- 
terior space of her home reflects Madame 
Beudet's mental restriction; her gestures 
and expressions, constantly juxtaposed 
with those of her husband, reveal her emo- 
tional suffocation. The placing of a vase of 
flowers becomes symbolic of conflicting 
sensibilities; the key to her piano, the con- 
trol of her means of expression. Her book 

and understanding of life. However, close- 
ups of Madame Beudet's face earlier in the 
film show her awareness of, and resigna- 
tion to, Monsieur's stupidity. He thinks 
that she knows nothing about Faust, that 
women have no minds of their own (which 
might be true when their heads are forcibly 
removed), but her expression shows that 
she does know the story and recognizes it 
as one of male dominance and female de- 
pendency. The most bitter moment of the 
film — the center of the argument — is when 

A House Divided (1913) by Alice Guy 

of poetry provides a way for her to retreat 
into herself and her desires. Debussy, Bau- 
delaire, and the ghostlike apparition of a 
male tennis player stepping out from the 
pages of a magazine are her only cultural 
reference points. But even these are im- 
pinged upon by the distorted face of Mon- 
sieur Beudet. Escape is impossible. Out- 
side, the institutions of justice and religion 
have sealed and sanctified her dependency. 
Inside, "it was in this accumulation of 
other men's thoughts and experiences that 
she looked for affirmation of identity." 10 
She is excluded. Monsieur Beudet's ob- 
structive and destructive presence occupies 
both her physical and mental space. With 
the loss of space, she cannot act; in the 
absence of action, she remains without re- 
sponse. She is shown looking at herself, 
framed in a triple mirror, alone with her 
own reflection. 

In case we need more clues, Germaine 
Dulac shows the completeness of Madame 
Beudet's mental decapitation: As Mon- 
sieur Beudet tears the head off her orna- 
mental doll, an intertitle reads: "a doll is 
fragile. . . a bit like a woman." He puts the 
head in his pocket, and thus the cigar 
smokers can spit in peace and continue to 
exclude women from the "real" business 

he mistakes her intended murder of him 
for her own suicide. He is incapable of con- 
sidering the possibility that she meant the 
bullet for him. The subtitle reads: "How 
could I ever live without you?" She is 
caught in his emotional dependency; she 
knows but cannot act. 

The film ends where it began, unsmil- 
ingly — "in the quiet streets without hori- 
zon, under a low sky. . .united by habit." 
With Madame Beudet's back to the cam- 
era, we see the priest and Monsieur Beudet 
greet each other, indicating their collusion 
and her exclusion. The provincial town is 
the scene of her imprisonment; behind the 
facade of habit are the scenes of her at- 
tempts to escape. Germaine Dulac could 
not accept the "happy ending" provided 
by A House Divided, but the escape and 
the analysis of her situation remain private 
to Madame Beudet, voiced only in her fan- 
tasies. She cannot change her situation, 
however clearly she may understand it. 

in her own voice she cried 

the end cannot be confused with the 

end that ended 
somewhere — but not here 
not here at the beginning. . . n 

Light Reading could be picking up the 

thread of Madame Beudet's story sixty 
years later. She can now record her spoken 
words, and we can finally hear them. As 
for her image . . . that has gone. The years 
of film and television and advertising have 
much to answer for. 

The film begins in darkness. A wom- 
an's voice is heard over a black screen. 
"She" is spoken of as multiple subject — 
third-person singular and plural. Her voice 
continues until images appear on the 
screen; then she is silent. In the final sec- 
tion of the film, she begins again, looking 
at the images as these are moved and re- 
placed, describing the piecing together of 
the film as she tries to piece together the 
tangled strands of her story. 

The voice is questioning, searching. 
She will act. But -how? Act against what? 
The bloodstained bed suggests a crime: 
Could it be his blood — was that the action 
denied to Madame Beudet? No answers 
are given; after the torrent of words at the 
beginning, all the film offers are closed 
images and more questions: Is it even 
blood on the bed? What fracture is there 
between seeing and certainty? Could it be 
her blood — rape/murder of the mind, of 
the body, of both? Her image has gone. If 
there has been a crime, "she" might still 
be the victim: How can a crime of such 
complexity and continuity be "solved"? 
The voice searches for clues, sifting 
through them, reading and rereading until 
the words and letters (in themselves harm- 
less enough) loom up nightmarishly. 

cutting the flow of her thoughts 
forcing her back within herself 
damned by the rattle of words 
words already sentenced 
imprisoned in meaning. . . . n 

The clues suggest that it is language 
that has trapped her, meanings that have 
excluded her, and a past that has been 
constructed to control her. Do we have to 
delve into history and reappropriate it? 
Perhaps there are other ways, like examin- 
ing the scene of the crime as if we're in 
detective fiction. But magnifying the stain 
on the bed only reveals a blur; measuring 
with a ruler doesn't add up to much. She's 
forced back within herself and her own 
thoughts; she begins again cautiously: 

she watched herself being looked at 
she looked at herself being watched 
but she could not perceive herself 
as the subject of the sentence. 13 

Madame Beudet's light reading, her 
attempted escape into Baudelaire,, can 
neither provide relief nor reflect her own 
thoughts and desires. Lis Rhodes recog- 
nizes that particular dead-end in Light 
Reading; she searches for other clues and 
other means of finding her own reflection. 
But she seems to be framed everywhere she 
looks: The cosmetic mirror gives her back 
only part of her image; photographing her- 
self in a mirror gives her back another. 
There are fragmented images, multiple 
images and shadowy photographs, but they 


remain as enigmatic and implacable as the 
stain on the bed. The images (snapshots of 
a past) are torn up and rearranged, leaving 
gaps which she tries to measure with letters 
and figures — fragments. 

Where do we begin? There is the past, 
always, which we can reread, reframe, just 
as we can try and re-place Alice Guy and 
Germaine Dulac. But it's not just a ques- 
tion of balancing out the injustices: "There 
is nothing connected with the staging of a 
motion picture that a woman cannot do as 
easily as a man." M It goes deeper than 
these crimes of exclusion and unequal op- 

Gertrude Stein said: 

And now mountains do not cloud over 
let us wash our hair and stare 
stare at mountains.* 5 

Her words, quoted, are like a light refrain 
running through the threads of meaning in 
Light Reading. The film ends with no 
single solution. But there is a beginning, of 
that she is positive. She will not be looked 
at but listened to: 

she begins to reread 
aloud 16 

In her own words, she can begin to find 
reflections of herself outside of herself. But 

nobody can say anything unless someone is 
listening. And we can't act without re- 
sponse . . . 

/ read to you and you read to me and 
we both read intently. And I waited for 
you and you waited for me and we both 
waited attentively. I find knitting to be 
a continuous occupation and I am full 
of gratitude because I realize how 
much I am indebted to the hands that 
wield the needles. n 

1. Germaine Dulac, "Visual and Anti- Visual 
Films," Le Rouge et le Noir (July 1928). Reprint- 
ed in: The Avant-Garde Film, ed. P. Adam 
Sitney (New York: New York University Press, 

2. Joanna Davis, from a conversation with Lis 
Rhodes and Felicity Sparrow (1978). 

3. From Often During the Day. 

4. Ann Oakley, The Sociology of Housework 
(London: Martin Robertson, 1974). 

5. Alice Guy, Autobiographic d'une Pionniere 
du Cinema (Paris: Denoel/Gonthier, 1976). 
Alice Guy asked Gaumont to make her first film 
after seeing the Lumiere Brothers' films. With 
the success of her first fiction film, Gaumont 
readily allowed his secretary to continue direc- 
torial work. She became head of Productions for 
Gaumont until her departure for the U.S. in 

1910 and marriage to Herbert Blache. In Fort 
Lee, N.J., she founded her own production com- 
pany, Solax, which was successful until it folded 
in 1914. A House Divided, a Solax production, 
is one of a half-dozen of her short films to have 
been preserved — none of her features have sur- 
vived. In 1923 she returned to France (divorced), 
where she remained until her death in 1968. 

6. Alice Guy, "A Woman's Place in Photoplay 
Productions," Moving Picture World (July 11 

7. Germaine Dulac, "The Essence of the Cine- 
ma: The Visual Idea," in Avant-Garde Film. 

8. Dulac, "Visual and Anti-Visual Films." 

9. Helen MacKintosh, in City Limits (April 16, 

10. P. D. James, Innocent Blood (London: 
Sphere Books, 1981). 

11. From LightReading (Lis Rhodes, 1978). 
12, 13, 14. Ibid. 

15. Gertrude Stein, "Sonatina Followed by An- 
other," in Bee Time Vine (New Haven: Yale 
University Press, 1953). 

16. From Light Reading. 

17. Stein, "Sonatina." 

Lis Rhodes is a filmmaker who lives in London. 
Felicity Sparrow is the coordinator of Circles, a 
feminist distribution network for women's films, 
videotapes, performances, and slideshows, in 

Dear Diane. He always complains. 

He always has some reason to complain. 

The children feel sorry for him, agree with his reasons 

for complaining. The children aren't children. 

He lectured them on the way to the movies about money. 

I told him the money situation wasn't his situation. 

Include me please, I told him. 

On the way back from the movies he included me. 

On the way back from the movies he conducted a Beethoven quartet. 

I complained he distracted me. You don't conduct a quartet, 

a quartet isn't conducted. 

He thought the movie was great. What did I think. 

I thought the movie didn't move, 

like a painting. Even a series of portraits. 

On the verge of impressionism, the colors varied and wavy, 

but I couldn't get in, a movie should let you in, 

shouldn't it. Hundreds of tiny points, the leaves. 

I couldn't get in. I was excluded. 

Maybe it was me. The young people were laughing. 

Our sons were laughing. I laughed but it wasn't funny. 

Peter didn't even laugh. 

On the way back I ate the popcorn I bought for the way back, 

a small box, buttered. 

Don't write me any more letters. 

I don't want to write you a letter back. 

In Japan, a father travels by railroad with his often- 
weeping wife to families of crime victims to do 
something, but not vengeance, for the son who 
died in his arms begging his father to avenge his 
death. At first, he wanted only the death of the 
murderer who killed the son only because he hap- 
pened to be the one passing by. Everything is wrong 
in my family and my life. From the avenue of the 
shopping center comes the sound of an ambulance 
or fire engine as in a movie from England, the 
sound I didn't think our emergency vehicles made. 
I ask my husband if he would mind sleeping down- 
stairs. He doesn't mind. It's like a movie. I turn on 
the light to write it down. I must stop thinking how 
this reads. I must say what must be said and al- 
ready I've changed it. I deceive myself with 
changes. That's been changed. If I dream, the 
dream will be to the siren what it was to the TV 
movie. The words accumulate by themselves. Some 
words have to be changed. 


Poetry by Phyllis Koestenbaum, who taught creative writ- 
ing at San Francisco State University until not rehired 
last year, and has published four books of poems, the 
latest, That Nakedness, from Marie Dern's Jungle Gar- 
den Press. 

©1983 Phyllis Koestenbaum 





Tilly Lloyd 


r e\v Zealand's 
I pseudo-blend of 
Maoritanga 1 and 
high-tech devonshire 
scones is SSE of the 
hong kong shop 
over, SSW of soweto, 
and NN of the pen- 
guins. We know a 
compulsory england- 
ette. And more than 
a touch of uncle sam. 
Since the men have always been obsessed 
with sheep, new Zealand sports a 3rd world 
dollar and commercially we're just a new 
knot on australia's apron string. This is 
not a happy software marriage, and is yet 
to be analyzed by a roving Jan Morris. For 
the moment let's just note a couple of ob- 
vious things. Of conundrums and destina- 
tions new Zealand has plenty. The former 
are predominantly inward (the Great NZ 
Clobbering Machine scrunches any talent- 
ed act) and the latter are predominantly 
outward (though most tickets are bought 
"return" because of our ambivalent par- 
ochial shuffle). 


Yet this same country was first to permit 
national (= federal) enfranchisement for 
women, and this was secured by the NZ 
suffragettes on 19th September 1893. On a 
global scale it can still astonish that we 
could land so fat a fish in such a small, re- 
mote, and new piece of english imperial- 
ism. It's greeted with some pride even while 
the vote as a symbol of equality has smelt 
distinctly suspect since the 20th September 
that same year. And particularly so for the 
lateral thinkers of the local Women's Lib- 
eration Networks — historical triumph may 
well be a triumph but it doesn't translate 
at all well into today's schemes for anarcho- 
lezzo inspirations. 

Despite any efforts to the contrary the NZ 
2nd wave has been more or less fashioned 
on the northern hemisphere model. This is 
particularly so with the Women's Libera- 
tion Networks within what is still often 
called the Women's Movement. Our an- 
alysis, tactics, and profiles are self-defined, 
but perhaps the reciprocity of influence 
was greater in the late '60s. And surely that 
can't merely be because NZ as a whole has 
been so much more americanized since 
then? It would be too simplistic to put it 
down to the US media machine, for that is 
merely one vehicle of the great american pie 
hype (ef) or the global bakery dream ($?). 
Insomnia prevailing, NZ Women's Suf- 
frage Day is a good day for tokenism, and 
a good day for microcosms. It reveals the 
NZWLM in all her warts, splits, and (semi) 
separatisms — the same divisions inherent 
to westernized feminism anywhere. Try 
these two examples. 


©1983 Tilly Lloyd 



A turgid radio show collectif Went Too Far 
on the local "Access" Radio station with a 
half-hour program designed to cast nas- 
turtiums on the medical industry and any- 
thing else playing at male domination. 
They achieved publicity for all of the femi- 
nist "isms" (including heightism). The 
message was pro Self-Help organizing 
(even the much-maligned CR groups) and 
their attitude reeked of insolence. They 
figured the problems of women's oppres- 
sion were bigger than anything assertive- 
ness training, voting, or hip restaurant 
management could solve, and the show 
quarreled with anything testerical in eye 

Ironically Radio Access is a "borrowed 
time" radio station — normally it's used for 
live broadcasting of government sittings! 
And typically, the Women's Suffrage Day 
show had no funding. The members of the 
For-This-Show-Only are actually union 
and student provocateurs, workers from 
the local Hecate Women's Health Collec- 
tive, entrepreneurs of bad taste Lesbian 
pragmatica, and abortionists. 



1982, AUCKLAND. 

"Media Women" presented their peak 
time television show, the "1982 Awards for 
Women." They were bankrolled by John- 

son & Johnson, who have been implicated 
in the '81 Toxic Schlock investigations but 
who in any case manipulate women for 
"hygienic" profit. The live telecast was rac- 
ist glam all the way. 

Sliced between a documentary on some ad- 
vances of all new Zealand women, they paid 
a bourgeois tribute to a handful who were 
advancing more noticeably. Put another 
way, they saw merit in giving prizes for 
"good" feminism which is in sore contra- 
diction to what we learnt on our sisters' 

The ideological flatulence of the farce was 
severely criticized by the "We Know What's 
Best For You and Us" earnestinas of ur- 
ban culturalism. The gala (gal/ah?) was 
also vehemently picketed by the auckland 
branch of the Failure Is a Feminist Issue 
lobby, the authors (approx. 400) of -the new 
book "Phuck-Phat-Let's-Dance," and the 
old dykes haime quartet. The Women's 
Right to Fart brigade produced a lofty po- 
sition paper and the women's No Confi- 
dence ballot option, who stayed home be- 
cause of the foul weather, turned the sound 
down on the box and held another meet- 

Meanwhile, back at the show, the core- 
group for The Meek Don't Want It were 
tied up pouring concrete into the back- 
stage toilets. It was a real have. 


Concept of the Sp'itting Image somewhat pla- 
giarized from Ian Lee's "The Third Wor'd War." 

1. Maori culture. 

Tilly Lloyd has contributed to Girl's Own (Syd- 
ney), Bitches Witches and Dykes (Wellington), 
and Radio With Wurds (Florence). 


Diana Agosta and Barbara Osborn 

In this panel held in November 1982, we asked Christine Choy 
(CO, Michelle Citron (MQ* Margia Kramer (MK), Deborah 
May (DM), Mira Nair (MN), and Deborah Shaffer (DS) to reflect 
on their histories as women documentary film- and video-makers. 
Much of their work has been seminal to independent documentary, 
and their experiences include a variety of aspects of film- and video- 
making. We've edited the transcript considerably, sometimes rear- 
ranging its order to consolidate discussions on particular subjects, 
but we tried to retain each participant's meaning and style. We 
asked the panel one central question: What are your personal and 
political reasons for choosing the forms and subjects in your work? 
DS: In 1969 I got introduced to the peace movement, the New 
Left, and the women's movement in rapid succession. It was a 
pretty heady year. I also got introduced to alternative filmmaking 
at the same time. Until that time all I knew from films was Satur- 
day afternoon. I met a group of people in an organization called 
Newsreel, which was making and distributing political and social 
documentaries — mostly anti-war films but also films about other 
movements, things that were happening on campuses and in com- 
munities around the country. So my interest in film was initially 
political, in film as an organizing tool. But without the women's 
movement, I don't think I ever would have become a filmmaker. 
There were just beginning to be opportunities for women in film- 
making, and at Newsreel there was a mini-revolution to train the 
women. We learned quickly, and that really opened doors to my 
career in film. 

After leaving Newsreel I formed a company called Pandora 
Films with other women I knew at Newsreel. We made two films — 
one on sex education called How about You, a half-hour black and 
white film for high school students. Then we made a film called 
Chris andBemie, about two single mothers, divorced women try- 
ing to cope with their children and develop their careers. 

After that I felt somewhat ghetto-ized in two respects: I was 
making short documentaries that were very limited in terms of 
available distribution, and I felt confined to women's issues. I 
think it's very important that women filmmakers are now taking 
on a whole range of subjects rather than being confined to "purely 
women's themes." That could be a dangerous tendency, particu- 
larly in the bigger film industry, where women are hired only when 
it's a "women's subject." It's real gratifying to me that at First- 
Run Features [which commercially distributes independently pro- 
duced films] we have films directed by women on a range of sub- 
jects. Still, I think it's important that women continue to make 
films that are primarily of interest to women, on issues that other 
people aren't going to deal with in the way we can. 

Now I'm co-producing a film on DES for the PBS "Matters of 
Life and Death" series, and I'm researching a film on immigrants, 
on undocumented workers in the urban Northeast. The most re- 
cent film I did was called The Wobblies, an hour and a half docu- 
mentary about a labor union at the turn of the century. It intrigued 
me because women played a key role in it, and it was the first 
union that tried to organize women. 

CC: I know Deborah because we were in the same organization 
many years ago — lots of fights and disagreements. Ironically, Deb- 
orah's consciousness was raised because the film industry is pretty 
much white male-dominated, technically and in terms of who's 
directing. It's a microcosm of our society as a whole. So at News- 
reel, women got together and demanded that the organization deal 
with what would enhance our directing, our point of view. 

My situation is a bit different because I am not only a woman 

*Michelle was able to participate in the discussion from her phone in Chi- 
cago through the wonders of modern technology and the generosity of 
Roberta Taseley and Joyce Thompson from the NYU Interactive Com- 
munications Center. Roberta and Joyce hooked up a phone conference 
between Michelle and our meeting room. 


but a national minority. When I joined Newsreel in 1971, I saw 
white people making films about Blacks and Hispanics, for in- 
stance. And I felt there was a lack of depth in the representation of 
how minorities really feel in this country. A few of us began to 
recognize that to deal with issues affecting our community (Third 
World communities), it would be better to take our demands fur- 
ther and to take control of the whole process. That's when I seri- 
ously began to engage in filmmaking. 

I got into filmmaking for subjective as well as objective reasons. 
Subjectively, I felt that as an immigrant coming to this country, I 
encountered a lot of issues and experiences which I wasn't able to 
verbalize or articulate. Filmmaking in some way seemed non- 
verbal, although today I realize it's very verbal — not only writing 
proposals 100 pages long but also dealing with all the corporations, 
etc. Anyway, I needed to express these experiences from my point 
of view. Minority women encounter different kinds of pressure 
within the society: economic, social, and cultural. 

Secondly, an objective reason or need I felt at that time (the 
early '70s) was that minority women needed to be able to work with 
the overall women's movement — but the movement never really 
got into race or class. I started to realize that racism and class 
issues are inseparable from other issues. They need to be ad- 
dressed, and not only from the side of the white American. I 
thought it was about time to bring up the minorities' point of view, 
to make it more balanced. I'm using the term "minority" quanti- 
tatively, since people of color all over the world are a much larger 
population. I'm talking qualitatively in terms of rights in this 

I also felt this need to get into filmmaking to express some of 
the needs and experiences of Asian-American sisters in this coun- 
try. In television and the mass media, you rarely see any Asian- 
American announcers. Generally Asian-American women are de- 
picted as sexy stereotypes, and in return most are very shy in front 
of the camera. They don't feel they can present anything important 
or contribute anything to the overall American culture or history. 
So I felt it was my own responsibility to present our contribution to 
America. Recently the New York Times printed it very clearly: 
One out of four persons in New York City is foreign-born; 50% are 
minorities. But look at Channel 13, PBS programming. It hardly 
deals with that sector of the population. Obviously that comes 
down to the dollar question. 

Unfortunately, although you want to present women's issues 
and minority issues and Asian-American issues, somehow you 
gradually get forced into this confined area — that's the only area 
people recognize you can do. Once, I wanted to do something on 
the automation-cybernation of industry; nobody wanted to give me 
a cent. That's an institutionalization of racism and sexism. 

And how are we going to be able to counteract that? I think I 
can't do it myself, as an individual. I need the voices, for example, 
of other people who work within institutions who are able to see 
that confinement as a way of perpetuating the same stereotypes, 
but in a much more sophisticated and institutionalized manner. 

I am working on a piece right now called Delta Mississippi 
Chinese Between Blacks and' Whites, a 90-minute documentary 
with dramatic elements. I'm influenced by Italian neo-realism — 
using a particular situation very far removed from your personal 
reality but depicting a larger universal phenomenon. In this case, 
it's the Chinese caught like a middle-man minority between white 
planters and Black slaves. It's a system basically built for two in 
the South. When the third element comes in, what kind of change 
takes place? In some ways this film is a very subjective translation 
of the Mississippi situation because, as an immigrant, I've been 
influenced culturally and historically by both white and Black 
Americans. The majority of the Chinese tend to recognize the 
credibility of white America, and they deny that they have had any 
kind of influence from other minorities . . . and I think I've figured 

©1983 Diana Agosta and Barbara Osborn 


i to 


y, i 

: to 

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out why. They inherit the southern mentality of the colonizer and 
perpetuate it against other minorities. So it appears that I am very 
critical of my own people sometimes. I mean I would never be who 
I am today without the civil rights movement, without a Black 
struggle, without a women's movement in the early '70s. Many of 
us filmmakers tend to forget others who have paved the road be- 
fore us. Without that kind of struggle, I would never be able to 
make films today. And filmmaking is a way to try to eliminate the 
racism in this country. 

MK: I make videotapes. I started out as a visual artist and did a 
work on Jean Seberg and the Freedom of Information Act. I got 
her file from the FBI after she died and I made a tape about her, 
her file, and her media life. Also, I just finished editing a videotape 
which is a documentary of a street festival called "No More Witch- 
hunts." The festival was held to protest neo-McCarthyism and took 
place right out here on Astor Place on June 19, 1981. 

What I'm working on now is a tape called Progress (Memory) 
about the evolution of communications, technology, and national 
security. Basically I'm interested in access to and freedom of infor- 
mation. I noticed in the New York Times today that the Reagan 
Administration is cutting back on the collection of statistics — 
that's health statistics and all kinds — that affect OSHA. They're 
eliminating hundreds of government publications or charging 
large sums of money for them and reducing the staff of the Nation- 
al Archives, making less historical material available. All that 
serves to reduce the freedom of information in the U.S. 

The tape I'm making about progress and memory looks at what 
makes up the legitimacy of democratic government in the United 
States. The idea of industrial progress and technological progress 
has always been married to social progress, generally speaking. 
The tape looks at how the military has replaced social progress 
with technology in the equation that defines the legitimacy of gov- 
ernment. National security has become a kind of password. Securi- 
ty and protection have replaced social benefits and social welfare. 
The tape looks at how communications are increasingly designed 
for the military, for technological advancement and transnational 
exchange. It examines how crucial information is to our existence, 
individually and as a democracy, and how there's no access to it. 

The problem is really tremendous and growing in the United 
States because multinational private corporations have control 
over communications systems. Although in my work I have been 
concerned with government, there is a way people may have access 
to government by trying to get things declassified. But nobody has 
any access to private corporations. They control the privacy of their 
information because they have First Amendment rights. This has 
to be worked out: That is, how can we regulate private enterprise 
so it's not monopolizing communications throughout the world? 

HC: What I thought was fascinating about your Seberg tape — I 
saw it at the Museum of Modern Art — was the way it was installed, 
having to look at the tape through the FBI files and the New York 
Times articles. 

MK: Right, I don't only make tapes; I build installations with 
them. That's the art part left over from being an artist, I guess. 
The tapes can exist by themselves and they also collaborate with 
the materials in the installations. It's a way to get people to experi- 
ence by just walking through something. I grew up in Coney Island 
and the thing that really fascinated me was going to these horror 
houses. I think my installations are a remnant of being affected in 
that way. As you walk through, something reaches out to you, like 
afurry, hairy hand, so that you feel scared or threatened or cajoled. 

But I am really concerned with just one subject — freedom of 
information. I came to this because I was working for the State 
Department, taking around an art exhibition in Eastern Europe, 
and it was a routine kind of thing to be under surveillance by their 
government. It was a horrifying experience. And the artists I met 
there were so eager to exercise the kinds of rights that we have in 
America, rights that artists never exercise much in their work here, 
that I just wanted to focus on this. 

I am trying to convince people to make a bridge between some- 
thing intellectual and the more emotional place where we live. 

DM: I also came to filmmaking from art. I was a graphic artist, 

not a fine artist, designing posters, publicity, and sets' — mostly in 
theaters in South Africa. I was working in theaters outside of the 
mainstream like community theaters that were multiracial. Then I 
became involved in literacy campaigns and health education work- 
shops, and got involved in film by looking for a suitable medium 
for whatever program we were doing. 

I became interested in the history of the women's movement in 
South Africa, which was hardly documented and which very few 
people knew about. In fact there was an enormous women's move- 
ment in the '50s in South Africa, made up mainly of the women's 
movement of the ANC, a Black organization, although the Indian 
Women's League, the Colored Women's Congress League, and 
Democrats, a white women's league, were active as well. All that 
was a history which had been completely ignored by both the Left 
and the Right in South Africa. 

A friend of mine and I decided to make a documentary film on 
that movement. So I dove in the deep end, not really knowing 
much about film at all, and managed to persuade people to fund 
it. I think it was purely because people were taken by the idea. It's 
quite amazing that anyone gave us any money considering I'd no 

At the moment I am working on another film on South Africa 
which is based on a play done in New York, mainly by Black South 
Africans. It looks at a South African woman's life, a Black woman 
who's a domestic. It's called The Long Journey ofPoppie Nongena, 
and was written originally as a novel by an Afrikaans woman called 
Elsa Sheber. It's quite extraordinary because it deals with the facts 
of a woman's life in a lot of detail, and gives a side of Black peo- 
ple's lives in South Africa which hasn't been touched or explored 
before. I'm making a documentary around the theater production, 
because the play deals with the actors' lives or the lives their 
mothers led. So it's a reflection of their own lives. There are points 
where reality and performance become blurred and art and politics 
also become blurred. I hope to get across this kind of information 
in a way that will appeal to a much broader audience than, for 
example, a political documentary on South Africa. 

MN: How did you come to this country? 

DM: It was when we finished shooting the footage for the other 
film called You Have Struck a Rock— the. title's actually from a 
song made up for a big demonstration: "You have touched a wom- 
an, You have struck a rock, You will be crushed." As we were 
shooting, security men followed us and we were scared of being 
caught and having the film confiscated. So every day we'd ship the 
film out through a contact I had. There was a choice of either 
cutting the film in London or cutting it here, so I decided to cut it 

The film deals with a period of history in which the women's 
contribution has certainly been neglected. So many times these 
young kids would come out of these screenings and say, "We never 
knew we had that kind of history; we never knew this about our 
grandmothers." That's been incredibly important. In some way 
the film broke a barrier about women getting involved in some of 
the organizing and political activities; it seemed to break the ice 
and established some kind of credibility. Even if it never had any 
other kind of success, that is really important. 
DS: Does it affect you being a white Zimbabwean making films on 
Black Africans? 

DM: I've always worked in mixed groups. I think one of the most 
pressing needs of filmmaking in Zimbabwe and South Africa is 
that it's nearly all white people who have the technical skills. Most 
of the Black people I've worked with are consultants or writers, not 
in technical positions, just because they never had the training. 
That's changing in Zimbabwe now. They've got a lot of programs 
to train Black Zimbabweans in film and television and radio and 
other communications. 

MN: It's interesting to hear all these other stories. Mine is so dif- 
ferent, but it still has so many elements of everybody else's. During 
the civil rights and women's movement that everybody's spoken of, 
I was 13 years old, in a very small hicktown in a remote part of 
India. I didn't quite know all this was happening in the rest of the 
world. It was a very protected life, very much like what Chris 



described as a life "being colonized by the colonizer." My father 
worked for the relics of the British Raj, and although we're very 
Indian, we were quite obsessed with what the British had left be- 
hind. It did seem odd that I spoke English better than all the other 
Indian languages that I knew. I always felt that I wanted some- 
thing different, and this eventually led me to join a theater which 
was begun by a number of Indian students. Of course, we only had 
English plays to perform. What theater did for me in India was to 
give me a sense of great independence, without the traditional bag- 
gage of being an Indian woman, being submissive and the rest of 
it. This independence got me to Boston, where I studied as an 
undergraduate. Then I stumbled into filmmaking. 

My feelings of being a guest in so many worlds led me to make 
my most recent film, So Far from India. When I started I had a 
voice and I had a vision, but I didn't quite know the language and 
elements to use to tell the story. So I did what I saw many docu- 
mentarians around me doing — picked a subject and researched it. 
Gradually the subject changed by itself. I met 150 Indians living in 
New York, and picked this man who was working in a subway 
newsstand, and inherited his story. We followed him in quite a 
traditional documentary style. It came out that two weeks before 
he left India — in a very mythical, old-fashioned way, to seek his 
fortune in America — he was married off by his family to a village 
girl in order that he not marry a foreigner here. I didn't know this 
when I first met him; over six months of filming we gradually 
unraveled the story. The woman became pregnant after two weeks 
of being married to him and she had a son in India. He was deter- 
mined to go back to India to see his son. By that time we had 
gotten so close to him and he had gotten so used to us, the crew, 
that we decided to follow him. We also happened to get a grant at 
the right minute. So we went to India and inherited the story of his 
family and the story of his wife, who emerged as a very strong 
character. The film is not just about a husband who leaves his wife 
behind but also about the position of a woman without a husband, 
because a husband in that community literally defines your pres- 
ence or your absence. 

I really feel what Deborah was saying about being locked into 
one area. I mean, a feminist is something I surely consider myself, 
but I don't describe myself as that right off the bat. So I hesitate — 
I don't want this film to be described as a "woman's film," though 
it has very much to do with women and men and what makes us 
what we are. 

I find myself very intrigued and excited by the documentary 
forms, but I'm finding that this need to tell stories is propelling me 
more toward dramatic film. I want more control, but I'm still 
interested in the neo-realism which puts drama in a context which 
is very authentic. My next project — the one that's in my head right 
now — has to do with mail-order brides. Immigrants, Indians, are 
very, very careful about maintaining their purity in terms of their 
caste or community. The whole milieu determines that you marry 
someone who will keep this milieu going. This is very common; it's 
not an amazing phenomenon even in America right now. The story 
is about a woman who is raised — not in the poor and exotic part of 
India that we all know here in America — but in something that is a 
mix of all these colonial and Indian backgrounds — middle-class 
India. So this woman, who in the eyes of middle-class Indians is a 
"liberated" woman, is placed in an arranged marriage, leaves her 
country not just to a strange country but also to a strange man, 
who has been programmed to expect a certain kind of woman. 
And she has to conform. 

MC: Well, my background is really different, and in a way I also 
feel slightly strange, being on this panel, because I'm not really a 
documentary filmmaker, even though I've made one documentary. 
I started getting interested in film when I was in graduate school in 
cognitive psychology. At the same time my political consciousness 
got turned around. I was in Madison in the very late 1960s and 
early '70s, and was very affected by what was going on there with 
the New Left and the women's movement, and somehow saw film 
as a way to articulate what I was feeling. 

When I started making films I had a strong notion — this is 
simplistically stated — new forms for new contents. What it meant 
was that I made a lot of films that were formally experimental and 
were about women's issues. I realize now that was because I come 

from a working-class/lower-middle-class background and there 
was a part of me that was relentlessly culturally upwardly mobile. I 
somehow associated experimental films with art, with something 
better than mere documentary. And so I would make these experi- 
mental films and show them around to women, and they would be 
totally uninterested in what was going on; there was absolutely no 
communication. It forced me to reevaluate what I was doing. At 
that point I did make a documentary film called Parthenogenesis, 
about a woman musician who was a classical violinist in Boston, 
and her student, my sister. But I felt very limited with documentary. 

Since then, I've been making films that are clearly hybrids. My 
last film was Daughter Rite, about mothers and daughters. It was 
a hybrid in that the narrative portions were shot to look like docu- 
mentary, like cinema verite. The literal documentary portions of 
the film — home movies taken of my mother, my sister, and myself 
by my father — were optically printed in an experimental film way, 
and the entire film was a narrative. It was successful in that it was 
not a traditional narrative, not a traditional documentary, but it 
was accessible to people who had no experience in any kind of 
avant-garde film. I was able to communicate with slightly new 
forms to women who didn't have any experience with those forms 
at all. 

The film I'm working on now — What You Take for Granted. . . , 
which is feature-length — is about women and work. It's about 
token women, women who are very isolated in nontraditional jobs, 
blue-collar and professional jobs. The film is about the difference 
between blue-collar work and professional work in our culture, 
and the contradictions for women in those positions — psychologi- 
cally, historically, politically, socially. And once again, it's a hybrid. 
The film consists of six women who talk about their experiences in 
a talking-heads format. Then two of the women, a doctor and a 
truck driver, meet through a contrivance, and there's a narrative 
spin-off. The film alternates between narrative and the talking 
heads, all of which are acted. The whole film places the two women 
and the narrative in a broader historical context. And it also tries 
to play off between public and private more than a traditional nar- 
rative would. I feel documentary film is very good at presenting the 
public sphere, which has been extremely important for women, but 
is not necessarily good at presenting the private sphere. I think 
that the intersection between the public and the private — who we 
are publicly and how we present ourselves publicly as opposed to 
who we might be privately — is intriguing. And it's very much relat- 
ed to work. 


DS: We used to make films for so little money and I was very grate- 
ful for that training. I mean, I went from making films for $2,000 
to The Wobblies, which cost $180,000. 1 was pretty spoiled when I 
finished The Wobblies, because it was reasonably successful. It 
premiered at the New York Film Festival; it's been shown in thea- 
ters around the country; it's been in a lot of foreign festivals. And I 
figured: Great, this is easy, now I've got it made. I'll write another 
proposal and get some more money. Guess what? No money. 

Whatever the sources have been that have supported the inde- 
pendent film community in the past few years are shrinking to 
almost nothing. I'm coming to grips with the grim fact that it's 
almost like starting all over again — starting a film with no money, 
having a job, working nights and weekends, asking my friends to 
work for free, stealing film stock — all the ways we started out. I 
feel like we've been doing it for a long time already, for chrissake, 
I'm tired of it! And I don't feel there's any hope right now for mak- 
ing films any other way, at least under the present administration. 

CC: Talking about the funding situation, I just came back from 
the meeting at the PBS National Conference where all the station 
masters get together and sell their products. The main debate with- 
in the conference was about the $12 million AT&T put out to 
expand the MacNeil-Lehrer Report as a challenge grant. What 
does that mean? It means $5 million has to come from the program 
fund and $5 million from all the different stations. Overall, the 
Corporation for Public Broadcasting received $23 million from 
Congress. After allocating all this money to MacNeil-Lehrer, 
Frontline, American Playhouse, etc., there's very little left for in- 
dependents. There was a big controversy around that issue. 

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Left to right: Soundwoman Phoebe Bindinger far Michelle Citron 's What You Take for Granted . . . (1983); Mira Nairs So Far from India (1982), photo by 
Mitchell Epstein; Christine Choy filming Delta Mississippi Chinese Between Blacks and Whites (1983), photo by YuetFang Ho. 

Personally, I'm a little fortunate because I got a grant just 
before the change in administration. But you can't look at yourself 
as a fortunate person — you have to look at the economic situation 
as a whole. And Reagan cut all the grantors — NEA, NEH. He is 
pledging that the private sector is going to match the remaining 
money, but obviously that's ludicrous. The private sector will con- 
tribute money only for their own sake. For instance, you know the 
American Masterpiece Theater? Now it's called Mobil Theater. 
That's what the future is going to look like. It's the way public 
broadcasting is going to promote private entities, openly advertis- 
ing corporate products. 

I've been looking at it dialectically. There was a period of time 
when, with large corporation money and federal money, the inde- 
pendents (including myself) went off in their individualistic man- 
ner, and in the process many of us gained experience. But now 
there is a change, and independents have to begin to consolidate 
and organize, pool their resources and equipment, and be able to 

MK: Well, I started working in video because it was the cheapest 
thing I could find that could hold all the information that I had 
together. I was just talking to Chris Choy about working in video 
and she said, "Well, you have to do CMX editing; it costs a lot of 
money." You don't have to do CMX editing; you can just work on 
a console, you can work for $20 an hour in somebody's studio. But, 
of course, you're left with something which isn't the best technically, 
especially because these machines which are used by a lot of people 
are always breaking down — you're never sure whether they're 
going to eat your tape. It's a struggle, but it really is the cheapest 
way to get something together and get it out. And I'm for video 
because it's the medium of now — I mean everybody watches TV. 

MC: Video has a kind of immediacy. When I work, even though I 
eventually end up with film, I first make videotapes. Before I film I 
usually conduct interviews and do a tremendous amount of re- 
search. So in the film I'm making about work, I interviewed about 
50 women on both audiotape and videotape and used all that in- 
formation as the basis of the film script. I don't even think that 
film is better than video, except for the ease of distribution at this 
point in history. 

DS: From my point of view, one of the major problems with video 
is distribution. This is a remnant of my Newsreel training — the 
idea that films are made to be used. My whole first year with News- 
reel I didn't make films at all; I went out with them every night 
and showed them at churches and community groups and dormi- 
tories. Wherever anyone would give us a blank wall, we'd show up 
with a projector. 

To me, distribution is important for two reasons. One, it's 
important that as many people as possible see the films, that we 
broaden our public. And there's always been this dream I'm begin- 
ning to think is crazy — that slowly we could begin to earn back 
through distribution what the films cost to make, instead of being 
dependent on this grant system, which I find obnoxious anyway. 
Even when it's working, it's begging people with a lot of money to 

give you a little bit of it to make a film. First- Run Features is an 
attempt to commercially distribute independently produced films 
— films that don't usually get in theaters. It's working with moder- 
ate success, but it's a struggle. It's not like Newsreel partly because 
we're all older and have more financial needs, and people aren't in 
a position to volunteer. 

CC: We need to experiment in new forms of distribution. Distribu- 
tion is tied to the product itself. For this film on Mississippi, I'm 
planning to transfer the film footage to tape, which will be cut for 
television and video release. But at the same time there remains 
the negative for the film version. There is a possibility to produce 
both, if the financing and people power are available. Television or 
cable is relatively convenient for reaching a large audience, but the 
film format is important for Third World countries and this 
country too. 

DM: Yes, the other problem with video is distributing outside of 
America. Europe, for example, is on a different system, and there 
are places in Third World countries that just don't have video faci- 

DS: In Latin America, for instance, it's even difficult to distribute 
North American independent films because the circuits are all in 


DS: The reason that documentaries traditionally don't get much 
distribution is that traditionally they're not very good, they're 
boring. I'm personally more interested in seeing the quality im- 
prove, whatever the form, whatever form is appropriate to content. 
I feel strongly that among filmmakers like us, among independent 
filmmakers, we have to encourage the growth of quality of every 
form, including traditional fiction, genre films, experimental films. 
I get real nervous when I hear these discussions about the correct 
form for film. I think that what form can express best what some- 
body wants to say depends a lot on the person. For me, it's more of 
a challenge to work with real people and to film real people. For 
me, fiction would be putting words in people's mouths, and that's 
not interesting to me. I understand that for people who make fic- 
tion and who work with actors, that's not what it is to them — it's 
shaping a way to say something that they want to say. My way of 
trying to shape what I want to say is to struggle with all the mistakes 
that real people make. I find that a vital process and a vital way to 

MC: I agree with Deborah. I think it's really important that all 
kinds of films get supported, get made. I don't believe at all in the 
domination or hierarchy of forms — and that's what I'm trying to 
say in my own film work. I think all film forms are important tools 
to get at what you're trying to say. 

MK: Since Atomic Cafe got such wide distribution and made so 
much money, I don't think people feel any longer that documen- 
tary can't be entertaining. That kind of editing on that material for 
a feature-length film was a form I think nobody thought could go 
over. It was pretty much the same thing over and over and over 


again, but it fell together partly because of what it was about and 
partly because it was done so well. But technically, it was not con- 
sistently good — because of its magnification, the image often fell 
apart. So it all depends on what kind of quality you're talking 

For me, it's the quality of the content that's really important. I 
come from a different kind of background so I don't feel any con- 
straints about using one documentary style over any other, drama 
over documentary — you can use any kind as long as you get across 
the content. 

MN: I have a problem, though, with most so-called political films. 
I think there's an attitude that since the films are on such impor- 
tant issues, be it wife-beating or abortion or political prisoners in 
India, you have to like the films; the audience must be sympathetic 
because the issues are so obviously right. I feel very much for those 
films, and I certainly think they are important and deserve audi- 
ences and ought to be seen. But they definitely sacrifice quality in a 
way that it needn't be sacrificed, especially in the medium of film. 

I don't know how many films I've seen about political issues 
that could just as effectively be slide shows or panel discussions. 
They show pictures and they have talk. You could make these films 
doubly, trebly, a hundred times more effective if more care was put 
into the form. You have to be more ambitious, almost more mani- 
pulative, or, I hesitate to use the word, artistic. You have to use the 

Deborah mentioned earlier she'd been interviewing Joris Ivens, 
and he's such a fantastic example of what I like in political films, 
because he makes films that are so rooted in time, rooted in a cer- 
tain opinion, and yet they last. And they last because of the beauty, 
the poetry that goes into them. There are so few films that concern 
themselves with issues that Ivens raises and that present themselves 
in such a manner. 

You can even use dramatic elements — I don't mean fictional- 
ized but dramatic in terms of editing, involvement with the human 
characters, allowing people to have a certain space within which 
we can read their lives instead of always giving us the messages of 
their lives, which, in my opinion, makes people in these films 
mouth political concerns, more like specimens, like in some anthro- 
pological films. 

CC: I agree with Mira that form and content should be combined, 
as Eisenstein said, all the time. But that also depends on the his- 
torical period, and unfortunately political filmmaking in America 
has been very short-lived. In the 1930s it lasted briefly, and in the 
1960s Newsreel was one of the pioneers in political filmmaking. 
There was a kind of desperation in the 1960s and '70s, and many 
of us made films coming out of those needs and desperation. So 
sometimes, I would say, content does precede form. 
DS: There's something Mira said I want to get back to. I think you 
got to the real point, which is: How effective are our films? I some- 
times say that I'd like to make films that make people laugh or 
make people cry. I'm a sucker for a good movie; I'd love for my 
documentaries to be really right-on political documentaries and to 
have a few laughs and all the things that a really good movie should 
have. That's one bad legacy that we came out of Newsreel with, 
which goes back to the whole question of agit-prop. 
MN: What's agit-prop? 

DS: Agitational propaganda. Agit-prop was a term that we used 
for films that were specifically meant to do some political educa- 
tion task, to rally people, to organize people to go on an anti-war 
march. And they worked. I was showing films in Ann Arbor and 
people would march on the ROTC building when the film ended. 
But there was one critical mistake in the early Newsreel days. 
This was about the time that the avant-garde film scene and the 
political film scene separated, which is something that wasn't true, 
for instance, in the Soviet Union; Dziga Vertov's films were incred- 
ibly political and they were also incredibly avant-garde movies. But 
we had a mistaken notion that we didn't want our films to be 
"manipulative." We wanted them to be very truthful, which meant 
putting them in stark backgrounds, not paying attention to the 
aesthetics of a shot. And I think that was a real mistake because 
film is manipulative. It's all manipulation. Every image, every 
choice, from the first shot to the last, from the first cut, the music, 

the soundtrack, the effects, everything. I feel the same way about 
the word "manipulation" as I do about the word "propaganda." 
Both are considered dirty words and they shouldn't be; they're just 
what we do. All films are propaganda, all films are manipulative. 
We need to learn to be effective, whatever that means. And it 
certainly doesn't always mean Hollywood, although in certain 
cases it might mean competing with the look of a Hollywood film if 
that's the distribution and fundraising you need. 

CC: I think all films are political, all films are agit-prop. It depends 
on your point of view. Every single Hollywood film has its message, 
whether you like it or not. Kramer vs. Kramer has a particular 
political message. Unfortunately, American audiences are not 
trying hard to look at films. 

DM: I agree with Chris and Margia that obviously the ideal is to 
have the content and the aesthetic, the technique, balanced. But I 
find it far more intolerable if the content is sacrificed to the aesthe- 
tic or technique and not the other way around. 

MC: I think this is related. I would talk about the importance of a 
pleasurable film as opposed to a documentary or a narrative or 
whatever. A good-quality film is one that's pleasurable. One of the 
main things that drives people to traditional Hollywood films is 
how they perceive pleasure. There's also some strong ideological 
support they get from going to Hollywood films. But it's important 
for our films to have this element and I think that mixing different 
approaches to film helps create that kind of pleasure. 

MN: What do you mean by pleasure? 

MC: I guess I mean satisfying on some level, whether it's an emo- 
tional level or an intellectual level or a visual level. It's a very deep 
involvement with the film but not in terms of traditional narrative, 
with characters that you totally identify with and get caught up 
with. Also, audiences come to films with certain expectations as to 
what the film means. If they think of it as a documentary or if they 
perceive it as a narrative before they walk in, those expectations 
are part of the real experience of watching that film and getting 
your message across. It's not just a question of what we want to 
make ourselves, but how it's going to be received by the audience. 

CC: It also depends on audience development. How do you raise 
audience consciousness to look at films differently? I look at docu- 
mentary films differently, look at progressive films differently. It's 
important for people to do outreach programs to reach, for in- 
stance, the Third World. Newsreel is now trying to package films 
for upstate, for rural areas, the South, to reach audiences we nor- 
mally don't reach, and introduce new film languages to those audi- 
ences. We're doing a program now called In Color about minority 
women and their point of view in filmmaking. 

Most filmmakers are a pain. When their film is finished they 
say, "Ahhh, I'm finished, I don't want anything to do with it," 
instead of going with the film and speaking with the audience, 
getting their reactions and synthesizing that experience to make 
their next film. Without that kind of experience, I think audiences 
will never develop and will continue to be in tune with the 
ABC/ NBC junk stuff. 

DS: My experience with distribution is that it's not so much the 
audience that's our problem as the channels of distribution. I have 
rarely had an audience receive a film badly. But I've had plenty of 
theater owners and exhibitors receive a film badly. One of our 
basic problems is breaking through this bottleneck. I think audi- 
ences are hungry for — this is something that if I ever stop believing 
I'd have to stop making films — the kinds of films that people here 
are making, films that talk about their real problems, their real 
struggles, their real concerns. And sometimes I think they're 
hungry for fantasy, too. And that's fine. 

That's where a lot of us started with film: The power of the 
medium is overwhelming. I think we make films for a variety of 
reasons; everyone has personal stories about what led them to it, 
mostly by accident. But the point is the tremendous impact films 
have on the culture and on consciousness. 

Diana Agosta is a film- and videomaker and writer in New York City. 
Barbara Osborn is a writer currently in charge of video distribution at the 
Kitchen, New York City. 


Some things just natiii 

A imanl 

fThree Palestinian women 

In Tyre, Lebanon, a girl J 

I Palestinian women! 

] A mother! 

Mother Teresa! 

teamed her brother past the remains of a Palestinian camp destroyed by Israeli forces, 
passing the body of one of the victims at refugee camp in West Beirut. J| 
Icarriesoneof 37 retarded children, 
i arrived in East Beirut after evacuation from western sector. 

Jcarrying her children to a relief center. 


9 searching for a missing relative among massacre victims 'in the Sabra refugee camp. 

m 1 - 


Recognize the Post and Daily News 
headlines — the ones featuring the violence, 
■"■£'?■> the tragedy experienced by women or their 

children? The New York Times prefers to 
"inform" its upmarket readers. No domes- 
tic homicide stories here. More fit to print 
is news of the geo-political nightmare, the 
full-scale invasion, the refugee camp mas- 
sacre. The photos come from far away, but 
it is here in the U.S. that they're selected, 
seen, and interpreted. 

The photos on these first three pages 
are a sample of the Times' coverage of the 
events in Lebanon from June 4, 1982, to the 
present: the invasion, the massacre, and 
the Israeli occupation. This selection is not 
statistically based nor are these kinds of 
images found only in the Times. We chose 
images that, like effective advertising, stick 
in our minds. They are repeated over and 
over with only minor variations, 
massacre after massacre. It is only 

during such a crisis that we see pictures 
of women from places like Lebanon, An- 
gola, or El Salvador: What can we know 
about them from these pictures? 


bidden e&< 


©1983 Diana Agosta and Martha Wallner 

These images were taken from the context 
of Lebanon and put into the context of a 
newspaper laced with ads aimed at an eco- 
""iiorhic-cultural elite. When we look at a page 
from the Times, we see the ad image of the 
elite woman and the news image of the refu- 
gee woman side by side. How are these images 
related — one seductive, the other pathetic? Are we — 
the reader, the consumer — the missing link? 

We're presented with a world-view that suppresses^ 
the explosiveness of the contradictions between these 
ad and news images. Ah! We get it. It's just the way 
things are — there are women who have and 
women who have not. But both are vulner- 
able — to tanks. . .to that certain man. . .to 
the photographer's gaze. . .to our gaze? Sex 
and violence from Bergdorf Goodman to 
^ Beirut. 

U And just what do we "learn" from the pho- 
' tographs of "Lebanon in Crisis"? 

THE WOMEN are traditional; their heads 
"are covered. They are rarely shown with men but 
often with children. They are seen fleeing through 
rubble or mourning. If they express anything it is 
a cry, a wail. They receive aid/are taken care of. They 
do not fight back. When other women like Mother 
Teresa respond, they are represented as saints or en- 
gaged in symbolic action. 

There is little evidence of any link between the men 
and the women. But then how does a guerrilla army 
exist? Who are the guerrillas? Who gave birth to 
them? Who fathered the children that the women hold? 
THE MEN are fighting the war and making deci- 
sions about the course of events. They are soldiers, 
diplomats, ministers, guerrillas. They are uniformed, 
organized. They are the legitimate targets of war. 
Their photographic separation from the women sug- 
gests a real physical separation and implies the possi- 
bility of avoiding civilian casualties. 

Just as the women are separated from the men, 
there is also a distinction between the way Third 
World men (Lebanese and Palestinian) and West- 
ern men are represented. The former are general- 
ly shown as either terrorists, fools, or, more 
rarely victims alongside the women. The 
Westerners and the U.S.-allied Israelis are 
not relegated to such extreme positions, 
in fact they are often shown in such a way 
that we identify with them. 

We get a nice view over the Israeli sol- 
dier's shoulder. Palestinians in our sightline 
(Fig. 1). Begin appears with an unshaven 
face; what was previously a sign of his en- 
emies' savagery is now a sign of his morality, 
his religious conviction (Fig. 2). Would the 
real Palestinian men please stand up (Figs. 
3-5)? As women to men, Third World men 
to our boys and the French Foreign Legion 
(Figs. 6-7). What's missing from this sce- 


ft V' 






Above are two choices — the first common, the second rare. The questions that slip 
through in these photos about women's involvement in their societies are the messages em- 
phasized in some other news media. At right are examples of the variety of ideologies at work 
in images published in the Third World. 

Some women theorize that until women are image-makers images of women will be op- 
pressive. Is this enough? The photographs that get published reflect more than just the pho- 
tographer's point of view. They must also reflect the viewpoint, the official history of those 
who own, who control the media. Why does the Times buy and print images of the mourning 
but not the resisting? 

An archetype of liberation media is the armed woman. Why? And why is it at the same 
time such a taboo image for the Times? Is it because it links women with active, violent re- 
sistance, a role that is not traditionally theirs? Such an image unites two opposites: women 
typically seen as defenseless, nonpolitical, and the gun, a symbol of political, physical power. 

Mainstream media initially interpreted the armed Israeli woman as evidence of equality 
in Israeli society. Her image was construed as particularly significant in light of what is seen 
as a sea of oppressed Arab women surrounding the state of Israel. Conversely, there is a 
tendency to dismiss images of armed Palestinian women, and other women and children in- 
volved in resistance, as obvious constructs of propaganda or evidence of their manipulation 
by the Russians. But the Phalangists stormed the refugee camps looking to kill Palestinian 
men, women, and children, not Russians. 

Meanwhile, in its effort to "help you keep up with a modern, changing world" the Times 
continues to rely on an old stereotype, dripping with journalistic pathos: the image of the 
woman as the uninvolved victim. Woman-as-victim is a pet theme of most Western press 
coverage. It is expressed in terrorizing headlines, elitist ads, and images of women in crisis. 

Yes, women are often victims. But don't the many images of chaos and grief in Beirut 
blind us to the fact that women also prepare food, raise and educate children, work as 
nurses and doctors, and that many support the Palestinian liberation movement in a variety 
of ways, even as guerrillas? 

In short, they are not simply victims. The activities of women's lives construct and sup- 
port the social base out of which any political movement operates. Just as elite women's 
images are used to sell cars, stereos, and software, Third World women's images are used to 
sell us a grossly distorted view of both our and their societies, revolution, its repression, and 
women's participation in history. If we buy this view we will never understand our lives, ...^8 
their lives, whose side we're on, or what to do. 

Diana Agosta is a film- and videomaker and writer living in New York City. 
Martha Wallner studied film and philosophy and is currently documenting the 
destruction of her neighborhood, the Lower East Side in New York City. 

It iw 

ill *Hslg 



CUBAN (photo by Martha Wallner) 

(lllllllP^ READINGS 
jl Bendt, Ingela, & Downing, James, We 
II Shall Return — Women of Palestine. 
HI London: Zed Press, 1972. 

Berger, John, 'Photographs of Agony,' 
in About Looking. New York: Pan- 
theon, 1980. 
MERIP Reports, No. 95 (March/ April 
1981). Other issues feature stories 
on Palestinian "women. Write: PO 
Box 1247, NY NY 10025. 
Said, Edward W., Covering Islam. 
New York: Pantheon, 1981. 




Where are we? Spring 1983. Over a decade ago I and other 
women artists found ourselves with very few options. Pitiably few 
women earned money with cameras. Pitiably few women earned 
money from their work at all. Things are different now — not where 
we want them, but different. I've worked in stills, film, and video 
for many years, and there's an explosion of women's work visible 
now that wasn't there when I started. The issue of money is still a 
sore one. I've done some crazy things to get my projects made with 
little or no money. We all have. It's still depressing how little money 
gets to women. But we're changing that; in fact, we've changed a 
lot already. 

Younger women have more options than we did 15 years ago. 
They aren't as afraid of their competence as we were either. In my 
teaching I don't have to trick them into handling equipment as 
much as I used to. Years of fighting it out with male faculty are 
paying off. More women are employed than when I was the first 
woman teaching photography at Pratt Institute in 1970. There are 
more organizations of women artists now than I can possibly join. 
We've moved pretty far since the '60s, when Art Workers Coali- 
tion and Artists United, radical artists' groups, were dominated by 
men, and a small group of women responded by forming Women 
Artists in Revolution (WAR). I joined them in late 1969. My sug- 
gestion that the two groups merge generated lots of suspicion and 
competition (not unusual back then). Money and recognition were 
scarce. WAR had asked the New York State Council of the Arts to 
fund a building of studios for them. I inherited the project, and 
when I went to the Council, I was told they weren't even consider- 
ing it. "It wasn't written up appropriately," they said, "and any- 
way, women aren't a minority— WAR isn't a large enough group — 
not serious enough." So, together with women from both groups, I 
wrote a "real" proposal. We created Interart, based on the new 
ways some of us were working with each other. Although we had 
allies on the Council, they still wouldn't fund us. So we demon- 
strated in the corridors outside their offices and brought in WBAI 
Radio. After that, they gave us $5000, which wasn't much for a 
new arts group representing the "silent majority." I resigned as co- 
ordinator shortly after the usual infighting over money began. 

I didn't realize, then, what an accomplishment that first grant 
was. I was too busy feeling disappointed in what was happening to 
us. Since then, women's groups have learned a lot about how to 
organize, get funds, and stay human with each other. Stormy his- 
tory aside, I've since taught at the Women's Interart Center, pro- 
duced some film and video with their help, even assisted with fund- 
raising. It isn't the Women's Interart Center of my dreams, but it 
is a place where women can produce work. There wasn't anything 
like it a decade ago. 

Part of why I wanted the Center, originally, was so I could learn 
filmmaking with other women. Robin Mide (who first designed the 
theater for the Center) introduced me to Kate Millett. Kate wanted 
to produce a feature-length documentary made by women: Three 
Lives. In 1970 women making a documentary about women was a 
revolutionary idea. We were the first all-woman company to do it, 
and I think Robin was the first lesbian to come out on film. I was a 

©1983 Susan Kleckner 

co-director, and directing Robin was exciting and painful. None of 
us knew much about working together, though. When a few of the 
crew took Kate to court for monies the film wasn't earning, I knew 
we were losing the revolution. Letting men decide our arguments 
was humiliating. We were in court because of vagueness in the 
wording of our contract and fantasies of riches that never material- 
ized. The women instituting proceedings wanted to be paid before 
the producer recouped her initial investment, and they saw their 
time as equal to her cash. The judge ruled — fairly, I thought — that 
we all be paid back equally. We've yet to be paid back completely, 
and Kate will probably never make back her initial investment. 

I'm proud to have worked on that film. I learned a lot. None of 
us knew beans about making a feature, yet we created a piece of 
history. We know about fighting it out, our expectations are more 
grounded, we value our time, and we write better contracts now. 

When I went to Miami with five other women to videotape the 
Democratic National Convention in 1972 (Another Look), I hadn't 
yet learned about contracts. This was the convention in which 
women were expected to "emerge" into mainstream politics — and 
didn't. We called ourselves Women's Video News Service and were 
the first women's group to cover a major media-event for television 
(I take pride in my "firsts"). We were sponsored by Teleprompter 
and the Feminist Party (Flo Kennedy). Opening night, everyone 
had stage fright and wouldn't go to the convention floor. I hadn't 
freaked yet, so I went alone. I was goosed by delegates while trying 
to shoot and interview. Given the scene there, our group did well 
covering the whole event. 

Afterwards we realized that none of us had ever faced such a 
massive editing job before: We had to reduce 30 hours of tape to 
one hour. I had never edited video; nevertheless, I was elected to 
edit the tape. When the editing started taking longer than expect- 
ed, a couple of women kidnapped the tapes. Thinking they'd do it 
faster, they didn't do anything at all. After desperate pleading, I 
got them back. I happen to be a compulsive maniac, so I finished it 

Another Look (1972) by Susan Kleckner 


Bella Abzug from Another Look (1972) by Susan Kleckner. 



Gabrielefrom Desert Piece (1983) by Susan Kleckner. 

in time for broadcast before the election. We were all overwhelmed 
by what we'd taken on. It was a major accomplishment, but once 
again the pain involved overshadowed the pride we should have felt. 

Three months later my Birth Film premiered at the Whitney 
Museum. I made this film with Kris Glen (since elected Civil Court 
Judge of Manhattan). We had been together in a consciousness- 
raising group for years. When she became pregnant and planned 
to give birth at home, we decided to film it. The women who 
worked on the project were my friends (one was also a member of 
our CR group). Most of them had little or no film experience. It 
was an ambitious project for me. I had directed the camerawoman 
for the "Robin" sequence in Three Lives, but didn't shoot it my- 
self. BirthFilm was to be my debut shooting film. I was scared, but 
the great Spirit was with me and I got beautiful footage. As far as I 
know, this was the first all-women-made film on birth. There 
weren't many birth images around, period, at that time (1970-73), 
and people weren't used to seeing vaginas — particularly close-ups 
of bloody vaginas, 15 feet tall on the screen. Many people fainted, 
and I ended up holding heads while women threw up in the ladies' 
room. People don't do that anymore — we've been showing what we 
look like for a decade. 

The Birth Film was my alternative to film school. I urge women 
to just go out there and do it. Mistakes happen, money is wasted, 
very few people understand what you're going through, your 
friends and family think you're crazy, but you learn fast. This is, in 
a sense, what we've done in the movement — pushing ahead with- 
out knowing enough, using every bit of experience we had, learning 
wherever we could. 


Those were heavy years. Some of us paid high emotional tariffs. 
I was involved in a videotaping that left me shattered. I went into it 
way overextended and almost didn't come out. I stopped working 
with women for a few years, left the planet for a while, and refocused 
on my still photography and drawing (private, solitary mediums 
for me). It took me years to realize that I did accomplish some- 
thing — we did accomplish something, back then. I believe it's im- 
portant to hear from those who burned out or nearly burned out in 
the early '70s. 

In recent years my work with women has been more of a pleas- 
ure. We're a lot more relaxed, and we respect each other. We're 
not so much competitors as colleagues. Other things have changed. 
We're not so afraid of getting out there, of falling on our faces, or 
of being wonderful. We're not sabotaging ourselves the way we did 
back then. 

When I made Bag Lady I made a quantum leap. A few years 
before shooting it, I worked with another group, Video Woman, on 
a documentary directed by Garland Harris, about a woman living 
in welfare hotels. The work was interesting, heartbreaking, and 
provoked many issues of responsibility. The woman started drop- 
ping by at all hours for food and money. We did what we could, 
but it became difficult after awhile. What was our responsibility to 
her? She became pregnant, and her family committed her to a 
state mental hospital. The tape was never finished. When I started 
writing Bag Lady, I knew I couldn't handle that kind of disruption 
in my life. I was certain I'd end up bringing bag women to my 
home to live. More pressing, for me, was the desire to work with 
fiction. I wanted control, to tell the story my way. I felt we needed 
new archetypes, new myths, to inspire us. On a metaphorical level, 
I believed street women were heroic, with great dignity, and I be- 
lieved I could say this more effectively with fiction. I wanted a story 
of triumph, not defeat (unfortunately, it's hard to find triumph in 
the facts of a real bag woman's life). I interviewed over 25 actresses 
before meeting Dale Soules, who was starring in The Magic Show 
on Broadway at that time. I was completely intimidated by the 
prospect of directing someone who earned her living in theater, but 
she was absolutely right for the character, and her energy and 
commitment to the film matched my own. It was thrilling to watch 
everybody push themselves beyond what they thought they could 
do. We were more proud than scared, with a growing tradition of 
women's art to inspire us. 

I finished that film excited about working with women again, 
but I discovered a new Pandora's box of issues. This time it was 
over ownership. I had made the film through the Interart Center, 
and guess what, no contract! They believed they owned the film. I 
believed I did. I did the kidnapping this time. At the same time I 
had started another film. It was supposed to be made through the 
Center, but because of our disagreement, they refused. I went 
ahead on my own. 

Amazing Graces, starring Lynne Thigpen, is a very short film; 
it's really a study for a feature I hope to make someday. This one 
was a total pleasure to shoot. It ends: "To be continued ..." which 
is my commitment to go on. In writing this article I almost didn't 
write about this film. In fact I almost "forgot" to mention it. After 
wrestling with my own discomfort, I realized I was afraid of my 
own confusion in talking about working with a Black woman. I 
was afraid anything I would say might be construed as racist. Lynn 
and I never spoke about being Black and white while making the 
film. It was important for me, and the film, that she's Black. I 
couldn't imagine exploring the subject of street women without in- 
cluding Black women — so many of them are Black. When I showed 
her this article recently, we finally discussed being Black/white in 
relation to the film. She said the question had never come up for 
her. I, however, had to move through a lot of fear to create a char- 
acter with her. It was worth it, and it was just a beginning. Con- 
fronting my own racism has been hard. Working with Lynn was 

Perhaps hardest for me to confront is my own internalized op- 
pression — patterns in my own behavior that keep me down. I have 
all kinds of self-defeating patterns that are learned and interna- 
lized: insecurity, fear, self-hate, and isolation, for starters. Mild 
example: Soon I have a gig at the Washington Women's Art Center 






to show work and speak. Great. Months ago they asked for a bio 
and photo so they could publicize the event. Very reasonable. I 
didn't send them. I kept "forgetting." Now it's too late for their 
newsletter, and I've ensured myself a smaller audience. Like many 
others, I keep my own oppression going. I'm changing that — this 
article is one way. And after thinking about what I'd done, I found 
a way to get that event listed in a Washington paper. 

It's important to remember that internalized oppression stems 
from real oppressions. As a Jewish woman, I know that anti-Semit- 
ism still exists, and that I still come up against it. We all know that 
some Jews are successful, but when you hear that all Jews are suc- 
cessful, you're hearing anti-Semitism (most Jews are working class). 
It's not unusual for Jews of my generation to have a lot of fear and 
confusion about "success." Personally, I have a lot of ambivalence 
around recognition. Recognition means visibility. I know a lot of 
women who share my approach/avoidance relationship to the 
whole issue of "fame." Throughout history, Jews have been slaugh- 
tered, often when too many became too successful. You don't have 
to be Jewish to be hurt by anti-Semitism. We are all hurt by racism, 
homophobia, and any other oppression. We've heard a lot about 
fear of success — for me, it's more like fear of mutilation and ex- 

It's taken a lot of work to even recognize these fears. It's taken 
physical and spiritual work to become healthy and creative. This 
work recently took me on a drive of over 5000 miles for a month in 
the desert. It was a major step for me as an artist, a woman, and a 
Jew to go alone to the desert. I wouldn't have done it 10 years ago. 
It was a coming-of-age ritual; it was also part of the film/video/ 
performance work, Desert Piece, that I've been doing for the last 
two years. The women in the piece gave themselves freely to the 
work, learned from each other, took risks, and put themselves on 
the line. I've never worked so well with other women, and I've 
never been so comfortable directing. 

I feel that there really is more support "out there," and I can 
begin to speak. Fear and rage have always rendered me speechless, 
but with hope I am finding a voice. It's with hope that I'm going to 
get through the rest of my life. I can even start to forgive myself 
and others for our lack of grace during this decade. 

For women in media, it's been very complicated because media 
is about visibility. We often are involved in making others visible, 
while keeping a certain anonymity for ourselves. I'm just beginning 
to look at all this, but I think the issue of visibility determines my 
and many other's behavior. The more I confront this, the more my 
work and my relationship to getting-it-out-there take off. I (we) 
don't have to continue being caught in patterns of fear and silence 

Desert Piece (1983) by Susan Kleckner 

The film was consummate, leaving the theater 

a denial of sorts. Out on the street, air is now cruel, demanding. 

The days have reached their peak of shortness, now two notches 

past winter, moving into spring. . . 

who looks at it that way, though, when we are stunned 

at the passing of two hours? We cannot miss the streetlights 

now on, outlining the ice, blackened by many, transformation 

is everywhere a possibility. . .even the watching of a movie 

becomes hardly the nonactivity we had bargained for. There 

we were, agreeing to have a quiet evening, catch an early flick. 

Perception changes 

every second perhaps 

a chance. 

What did you see all the times you cleaned the floor never 

noticing the chunk of glass left from the one broken seasons 

before or the gargoyles above your lover's door ? 

Where were your eyes when I couldn't take mine off the screen? 

Walking crosstown I see the French countryside across 

your never having left the United States cheekbones. 

Though your gait is unlike the protagonist's, it is unlike 

the way you usually walk. The French actress had light red hair, 

and lots of freckles. My dark hair is getting white strands, 

I remember the red highlights I one summer thought I saw. 

Some people we pass watch us go by. Perhaps we watch each other. 

Home, I fall asleep 

under your influence. 

Poem by Julia J. Blumenreich, who hates serving bacon and eggs but loves 
painting and writing. 

Clara Bow 

(The "IT" GSrI) 

When life became stress-laden, intolerable, 

Harrowing, filled with pain 

And bitter disenchantment, 

I think of the mother of a redhead — 

A child destined to be a movie star — 

The mother grown mad with disappointments, 

Who held a knife at her young daughter's throat, 

Intending to kill her 

So that the child could escape 

From life's harrowings. 

I also think of that child, half waif, 

Half sensuous woman, 

And how she rose to fame, yet was denied 

The privilege of great dramatic roles — 

Roles in which she could show her true talent, 

And be more than sex symbol 

To a nation of theater-goers. 

It is said that Clara Bqw, whose life 

Was tragic from its beginning 

To its end, could have been 

The greatest of tragediennes. 

But, for her, life was (as her mad mother 

Had predicted) brutal and terrible, 

Despite transient glamour, 

Despite transient wealth and fame, 

Despite marriage to a good and noble man. . . 

Susan Kleckner is a filmmaker and photographer, currently teaching at 
the International Center for Photography in New York City. 

Poem by Merry Harris, a Southern poet of Cherokee ancestry living in 
California. Her fifth book of poetry, Even Such Is Time, was published in 

© 1983 Julia J. Blumenreich © 1983 Merry Harris 79 

fragments of a filmscript: in our own image 

lucy panteli 

in our own image regarding sequences of events taking her hands from their pockets colors entered her mouth in 
waves obscuring horizons drowning in differences fighting across the different points of view locations rush by on 
a plane of glass her reflection stares back at me observing what it was i had wanted to ask arranging letters on 
a paper putting flowers in a vase tracing spaces i developed signs on tablecloths covering yesterdays reasons lie 
beneath fighting across the different points of view scattering vibrations making meanings ripped apart in waves 
disturbing variations smiling at her in layers of emulsion and paper smiled back through endless indecisions 
swapping seats exchanging glances long since fled by sewing buttonholes on a bloodstained sheet waiting for the 
bleeding to subside i buried the buttons in the earth and stumble on a different phrase how do we agree i erase 
a thought stumble on a different phrase slipping through my fingers rolling over multiplying reaching no 
conclusions i did not say the words were missing letters arranging sequences on a paper putting flowers in a vase 
vacating questions imprisoning me in cages of light pieces of my identity slipping through my fingers rolling over 
multiplying staring back at me observing what it was i had wanted to ask below surfaces swallowing vibrations 
she exuded pass from her weightless limbs into mine obscuring horizons drowning in differences arranging letters 
on a paper putting fragments in a vase i lose sight of myself secreting blood behind a name discharging 
limitations left unsaid crests of waves falling my shadow escapes counting all the faces which are mine slipping 
through my fingers rolling over multiplying reaching no conclusions i seize myself to abandon myself below 
surfaces inside movement into gesture you keep repeating yourself she said trickles into words forming distances 
between us i was opening doors she was closing from another side scattering vibrations behind variations bleeding 
between the seams my vagina stares back at me observing what it was i had wanted to ask in unmade scenes 
contexts lie buried in boxes on shelves somewhere else disturbing memories a mirror watched me take it from the 
wall turn it to face itself some men coming out from behind were scraping at the air between us a mirror hangs 
regarding sequences obscuring horizons tracing space i developed across the different points of view counting my 
identities smiling back exchanging glances taking me across the different points of view sewing buttonholes in the 
earth another question imprisoning me in words secreting limitations raping colors in layers of emulsion and 
paper losing sight of myself below surfaces inside movement into gesture into words running behind me searching 
in unmade scenes buried in boxes on shelves somewhere regarding sequences obscuring horizons outside and inside 
my vagina trickles into words tracing spaces on a paper putting letters in a vase in our own image i erase a 
thought drowning in differences i developed signs through endless indecisions long since fled slip by swallowing 
vibrations she exuded colors passing from her weightless limbs into mine secreting blood falling into faces which 
are mine slipping through my fingers words discharging limitations staring back at me scattering vibrations making 
waves ripped apart in meanings disturbing variations taking her across the different points of view in our own 
image someone raping colors changing into me conclusions slip by bleeding everywhere i turn a mirror hiding 
remnants entering her mouth in waves searching in unmade scenes remnants escape on empty pages contexts lie 
buried somewhere else catching sight of myself emerging from another side losing sight of myself shattering 
patterns making meanings ripped apart discharging variations my vagina trickles into words left unsaid between 
us a mirror hangs questions i was asking below surfaces inside movement into gesture running behind me 
disturbing memories exchanging fragments taking sequences of events drowning in our own image swallowing 
vibrations i developed differences covering yesterdays points of view my reflection on a bloodstained sheet opening 
doors she was closing distances between us slip by on a paper in a vase into colors obscuring horizons falling away 
on a plane of glass tracing space exuding distances into colors secreting points of view a thought escaping trickles 
into words staring back through endless indecisions i buried the buttons in a different phrase waiting for the 
bleeding to subside i stumble inside movement into gesture on the questions which are mine repeating letters on 
paper putting fragments in a vase obscuring words secreting limitations imprisoning me in questions i had wanted 
to ask staring back at her observing yesterdays reasons bleeding in the earth escaping conclusions below surfaces 
swallowing vibrations she exuded pass from her weightless limbs into mine outside and inside movement into 
gesture you keep repeating yourself she said you keep repeating trickles into sequences of events overlapping 
yesterdays points of view bleeding in the earth entering her mouth in waves colors stumble between us horizons 
stare back at me closing doors i was opening spaces on paper tracing questions in a vase between distances 
repeating movement into gesture secreting limitations bleeding below surfaces beneath layers colors stare back 
through endless indecisions exchanging variations repeating sequences of events covering yesterdays glances slipping 
through my fingers rolling over multiplying between us horizons stare back in boxes on shelves in our own image 
disturbing memories a mirror watched me take it from the wall turn it to face itself ' some men emerging from the 
other side were scattering vibrations shattering patterns making meanings ripped apart in words disturbing variations 
raping distances between us a mirror hangs questions secreting in a different phrase reaching no conclusions 
colors pass from her weightless limbs obscuring sounds tracing spaces across horizons imprisoning me outside 
and inside limitations rush by rolling over multiplying into spaces i developed across the different points of view 
her reflection stares back at me secreting identities scattering all the faces which are making waves ripped apart 
in meanings disturbing variations long since fled slip by into colors discharging points of view obscuring horizons 
drowning in differences left unsaid crests of waves falling my shadow escapes someone raping colors constantly 
changing tracing distances on paper putting spaces in a vase arranging what it was i had wanted to ask between 
horizons losing sight of myself 

Lucy Panteli is a London filmmaker currently working on a film concerning female imagery in experimental films. 

80 ©1983 Lucy Panteli 


r I He 



„ Maternal 

f Issues 
in Vidor's 
Stella Dall 

For complex reasons, feminists have 
focused on the Mother largely from the 
daughter position. When I first joined a 
consciousness-raising group in 1969, we 
dealt with Mothering only in terms of our 
own relationships to our mothers, and this 
despite the fact that a few of us in the 
group already had children. As a graduate 
student and mother of a one-year-old girl, 
I badly needed to talk about issues of ca- 
reer versus Motherhood, about how having 
the child affected my marriage, about the 
conflict between my needs and the baby's 
needs; but for some reason, I felt that these 
were unacceptable issues. 

I think this was because at that time 
feminism was very much a movement of 
daughters. The very attractiveness of femi- 
nism was that it provided an arena for 
separation from oppressive closeness with 
the Mother; feminism was in part a reac- 
tion against our mothers, who had tried to 
inculcate the patriarchal "feminine" in us, 
much to our anger. This made it difficult 
for us to identify with Mothering and to 
look from the position of the Mother. 

Unwittingly, then, we repeated the 
patriarchal omission of the Mother. From 
a psychoanalytic point of view, we remained 
locked in ambivalence toward the Mother, 
at once still deeply tied to her while striv- 
ing for an apparently unattainable autono- 
my. Paradoxically, our complex Oedipal 
struggles prevented us from seeing the 
Mother's oppression (although we had no 
such problems in other areas), and resulted 
in our assigning the Mother, in her hetero- 
sexual, familial setting, to an absence and 
silence analogous to the male relegation of 
her to the periphery. 

Traditional psychoanalysis, as an ex- 
tension of patriarchy, has omitted the 
Mother, except when she is considered 
from the child's point of view. Since patri- 

©1983 E.Ann Kaplan 

archy is constructed according to the male 
unconscious, feminists grew up in a society 
that repressed the Mother. Patriarchy 
chose, rather, to foreground woman's sta- 
tus as castrated, as lacking, since this con- 
struction benefits patriarchy. If the phal- 
lus defines everything, legitimacy is grant- 
ed to the subordination of women. Femi- 
nists have been rebellious about this second 
construction of ourselves as castrated, but 
have only recently begun to react strongly 
against the construction of the Mother as 

This reaction began in the mid-'70s 
with the ground-breaking books about 
motherhood by Adrienne Rich, Dorothy 
Dinnerstein, and Jane Lazarre. 1 Rich and 
Dinnerstein exposed the repression of the 
Mother, and analyzed the reasons for it, 
showing both psychoanalytic and socio- 
economic causes. Building on Melanie 
Klein's and Simone de Beauvoir's ideas, 
Dinnerstein described the early childhood 
experience as one of total dependency on a 
Mother who is not distinguished from the 
self (she is "good" when present, "bad" 
when absent). This, together with the 
Mother's assimilation to natural processes 
through her reproductive function, results 
in her split cultural designation and repre- 

Rich shows in numerous ways how the 
Mother is either idealized, as in the myths 
of the nurturing, ever-present but self- 
abnegating figure, or disparaged, as in the 
corollary myth of the sadistic, neglectful 
Mother who puts her needs first. The 
Mother as a complex person in her own 
right, with multiple roles to fill and con- 
flicting needs and desires, is absent from 
patriarchal representations. Silenced by 
patriarchal structures that have no room 
for her, the Mother-figure, despite her 
actual psychological importance, has been 

allotted to the margins, put in a position 
limited to that of spectator. 

These constructions contributed to 
feminists' negative attitude toward Moth- 
ering in the early days of the movement. 
We were afraid not only of becoming like 
our own mothers, but also of falling into 
one or the other of the mythic paradigms, 
should we have children. Put on the defen- 
sive, feminists rationalized their fears and 
anger, focusing on the destructiveness of 
the nuclear family as an institution, and 
seeing the Mother as an agent of the patri- 
archal establishment. We were unable 
then to see that the Mother was as much a 
victim of patriarchy as ourselves, construct- 
ed as she is by a whole series of discourses 
— psychoanalytic, political, and economic. 

The Hollywood cinema is as responsi- 
ble as anything for perpetuating the use- 
less patriarchal myths. Relatively few Hol- 
lywood films make the Mother central, 
relegating her, rather, to the periphery of a 
narrative focused on a husband, son, or 
daughter. The dominant paradigms are 
similar to those found in literature and 
mythology throughout Western culture, 
and may be outlined quite simply: 

1. The Good Mother, who is all-nur- 
turing and self-abnegating — the "Angel in 
the House." Totally invested in husband 
and children, she lives only through them, 
and is marginal to the narrative. 2 

2. The Bad Mother or Witch— the 
underside to the first myth. Sadistic, hurt- 
ful, and jealous, she refuses the self-abne- 
gating role, demanding her own life. Be- 
cause of her "evil" behavior, this Mother 
often takes control of the narrative, but 
she is punished for her violation of the de- 
sired patriarchal ideal, the Good Mother. 3 


3. The Heroic Mother, who suffers and 
endures for the sake of husband and chil- 
dren. A development of the first Mother, 
she shares her saintly qualities, but is more 
central to the action. Yet, unlike the sec- 
ond Mother, she acts not to satisfy herself 
but for the good of the family. 4 

4. The Silly, Weak, or Vain Mother. 
Found most often in comedies, she is ridi- 
culed by husband and children alike, and 
generally scorned and disparaged. 5 

As these limited paradigms show, Hol- 
lywood has failed to address the complex 
issues that surround Mothering in capital- 
ism. Each paradigm is assigned a moral 
position in a hierarchy that facilitates the 
smooth functioning of the system. The 
desirable paradigm purposely presents the 
Mother from the position of child or hus- 
band, since to place the camera in the 
Mother's position would raise the possibil- 
ity of her having needs and desires of her 
own. If the Mother reveals her desire, she 
is characterized as the Bad Mother (sadis- 
tic, monstrous), much as the single woman 
who expresses sexual desire is seen as 

It is significant that Hollywood Moth- 
ers are rarely single and rarely combine 
Mothering with work. Stahl's and Sirk's 
versions of Imitation of Life are exceptions 
(although in other ways the Mother figures 
reflect the myths). Often, as in Mildred 
Pierce, the Mother is punished for trying to 
combine work and Mothering. Narratives 
that do focus on the Mother usually take 
that focus because she resists her proper 
place. The work of the film is to reinscribe 
the Mother in the position patriarchy de- 
sires for her and, in so doing, teach the 
female audience the dangers of stepping 
• out of the given position. Stella Dallas is a 
clear example: the film "teaches" Stella 
her "correct" position, bringing her from 
resistance to conformity with the dominant, 
desired myth. 

How could she — oh how could she 
have become a part of the picture on 
the screen, while her mother was still 
in the audience, out there, in the dark, 
looking on? 

This quotation is taken from the 1923 
novel Stella Dallas, by Olive Higgins. It 
shows how the cinema had already, by 
1923, become a metaphor for the opposi- 
tions of reality and illusion, poverty and 
wealth. Within the film Stella Dallas, we 
find the poor on the outside (Laurel's 
mother, Stella) and the rich on the inside 
(Laurel and the Morrisons). This mimics, 
as it were, the situation of the cinema spec- 
tator, who is increasingly subjected to a 
screen filled with rich people in luxurious 
studio sets. 

But it is not simply that the 1937 ver- 
sion of Stella Dallas makes Stella the 
working-class spectator, looking in on the 
upper-class world of Stephen Dallas and 

the Morrison family. She is excluded not 
only as a working-class woman, but also as 
the Mother. Ben Brewster notes that the 
1923 novel moves Laurel "decisively into 
the world of Helen Morrison, shifting its 
point of identification to Laurel's mother, 
Stella Dallas, who abolishes herself as visi- 
ble to her daughter so as to be able to con- 
template her in that world." 6 It is the 
process by which Stella Dallas makes her- 
self literally Mother-as-spectator that 
interests me, for it symbolizes the position 
that the Mother is most often given in pa- 
triarchal culture, regardless of which para- 
digm is used. 

Stella is actually a complex mixture of 
a number of the Mother paradigms. She 
tries to resist the position as Mother that 
patriarchal marriage, within the film, seeks 
to put her in — thus, for a moment, expos- 
ing that position. First, she literally objects 
to Mothering because of the personal sacri- 
fices involved; then, she protests by ex- 
pressing herself freely in her eccentric style 
of dress. The film punishes her for both 
forms of resistance by turning her into a 
"spectacle" produced by the upper class' 
disapproving gaze, a gaze the audience is 
made to share through the camera work 
and editing. 

The process by which Stella is brought 
from resistance to passive observer high- 
lights the way the Mother is constructed as 
marginal or absent in patriarchy. As the 
film opens, we see Stella carefully prepar- 
ing herself to be the object of Stephen Dal- 
las' gaze; she self-consciously creates the 
image of the sweet, innocent but serious 
girl as she stands in the garden of her 
humble dwelling pretending to read a 
book. Despite all her efforts to be visible, 
her would-be lover fails to notice her. The 
cinema spectator, seeing that Stephen is as 
much someone with class as Stella is with- 
out it, realizes that Stella is overlooked be- 
cause she is working class. 

Stella's plan to escape from her back- 
ground is understandable, given the place 
her mother occupies within the family. 
This gaunt and haggard figure slaves away 
at sink and stove in the rear of the frame, 
all but invisible on a first viewing. She only 
moves into the frame to berate Stella for 
refusing to give her brother the lunch he 
wants. "What do you want to upset him 
for? What would I do without him?" she 
asks, betraying her economic and psycho- 
logical dependence on this young man, not 
yet ground down (as is her husband) by toil 
at the mill. As Stella narcissistically ap- 
praises her own fresh beauty in the kit- 
chen's dismal mirror, she is inspired to 
take her brother his lunch after all, hoping 
to meet Stephen Dallas, whom she now 
knows is a runaway millionaire. 

Stella's "performance" at the mill of- 
fice, where Stephen has settled down to a 
lonely lunch, is again self-conscious. But 
this time her flawless acting wins her what 
she wants. Dressed as a virginal young 
lady, she gazes adoringly up at Stephen 
instead of following the directions he is 

Mildred Pierce (1946). Mildred's close, narcissis- 
tic bonding to Veda must be punished because it 
excludes men. Here, Veda is seen flirting with 
Mildred's lover Monty, presaging her full-blown 
affair with him and her deliberate rejection of 
her mother. Photo courtesy of Museum of Mod- 
ern Art/Film Stills Archive. 

giving her — an attention that surprises but 
flatters the heart-sick man. 

Shortly after this, we find Stephen and 
Stella at the movies. A shot of upper-class 
men and women dancing on a screen, 
filmed from the perspective of the theater 
audience, is followed by a front shot of 
Stella and Stephen. He munches disinter- 
estedly on popcorn while she snuggles up 
to him, intensely involved in the film. This 
scene confirms that Stella has been acting 
"as if in the movies," performing with 
Stephen accordingto codes learned through 
watching films. We see how films indeed do 
"teach" us about the life we should desire 
and about how to respond to movies. As the 
film ends, Stella is weeping; and as wom- 
en watching Stella watching the screen, 
we are both offered a model of how we 
should respond to films and given insight 
into the mechanisms of cinematic voyeur- 
ism and identification. Stella, the working- 
class spectator, is outside the rich world on 
the screen, offered as spectacle for her 



emulation and envy. "I want to be like the 
women in the movies," Stella says to Ste- 
phen on their way home. 

Meanwhile, Stella and Stephen them- 
selves become objects of the envious, voy- 
euristic gaze of some passersby when they 
embrace outside the cinema. The women 
watching are now "on the outside," while 
Stella is beginning her brief sojourn "in- 
side" the rich world she envied on screen. 
Thus, to the basic audience-screen situa- 
tion of the Stella Dallas film itself, Vidor 
has added two levels: Stella and Stephen in 
the movie house, and Stella and Stephen 
as "spectacle" for the street "audience." 
Stella will herself create yet another spec- 
tator-screen experience (one that is indeed 
foreshadowed in the movie scene here), 
when she becomes "spectator" to the 
screen/scene of her daughter's luxurious 
wedding in the Morrison household at the 
end of the film. Stella has made her daugh- 
ter into a "movie star" through whom she 
can live vicariously. 

This is only possible through Mother- 
hood as constructed in patriarchy, and 
thus Stella's own mothering is central to 
her trajectory. It is fitting that the movie 
scene cuts directly to Stella's haggard 
mother laboring in her kitchen the follow- 
ing morning. Her victimization is under- 
scored by her total fear of Stella's father, 

who is yelling loudly. Both the mother and 
son are terrified that the father will discov- 
er that Stella has not come home. Indeed, 
the father angrily ejects his daughter from 
his house — until her smiling arrival, al- 
ready wed to Stephen Dallas, mitigates all 

This is the last we see of Stella's fami- 
ly. For all intents and purposes the work- 
ing-class family is eliminated on Stella's 
entrance into Stephen Dallas' upper-class 
world — it is made as invisible in filmic 
terms as it is culturally. What Stella has to 
contend with are her remaining working- 
class desires, attitudes, and behaviors, 
which the film sees ambiguously as either 
ineradicable (which would involve an un- 
characteristic class determinism), or as 
deliberately retained by Stella. Women are 
socialized to be flexible precisely so that 
they can marry into a higher class, taking 
their family up a notch as they do so. We 
have seen that Stella is aware of how she 
should behave. ("I want to be with you," 
she tells Stephen after seeing the movie, "I 
want to be like you. I want to be like all the 
people you've been around.") But Stella 
resists this change once she has won her 
upper-class man, which makes her at once 
a more interesting and a more tragic hero- 
ine. Given the structures that bind her, she 
has more sense of self than is ultimately 
good for her. 

It is both Stella's (brief) resistance to 
Mothering and her resistance to adapting 
to upper-class mores that for a moment 
expose the construction of Mothering in 
patriarchy and at the same time necessi- 
tate her being taught her proper construc- 
tion. Stella first violates patriarchal codes 
when, arriving home with her baby, she 
manifests not delight but impatience with 
her new role, demanding that she and Ste- 
phen go dancing that very night. Next, she 
violates the codes by wearing a garish dress 
and behaving independently at the club, 
leaving their table to dance with a strang- 
er, Mr. Munn (who is from the wrong set), 
and going to sit at Munn's table. 

This behavior is immediately "placed" 
for the spectator when the camera takes 
Stephen's point of view on the scene, al- 
though it could as easily have stuck with 
Stella's perspective and shown the stuffi- 
ness of the upper class. Staying with Ste- 
phen, who has now collected their coats 
and is waiting by the dance floor, the cam- 
era exposes Stella's vigorous dancing and 
loud behavior as "unseemly." At home, 
Stephen begs Stella to "see reason", in 
other words, to conform to his class. He 
does not take kindly to Stella's round reply 
("How about you doing some adapting?"), 
and when he asks her to move to New York 
because of his business she refuses on ac- 
count of "just beginning to get into the 
right things" (which the spectator already 
knows are the wrong things from Stephen's 

The following scene shows even more 
clearly how the film wrenches Stella's point 
of view away from the audience, forcing us 

to look at Stella through Stephen's eyes. 
As a Mother, Stella is no longer permitted 
to control her actions, or to be the camera's 
eye (as she was in the scenes before her 
marriage and Motherhood). The scene 
with Laurel as a baby opens with the cam- 
era still in Stella's point of view. We see her 
with her maid, feeding the baby and de- 
lighting in her. Munn and his friends drop 
by, and a spontaneous little party devel- 
ops. Everyone is having fun, Laurel includ- 
ed. Suddenly Stephen arrives, and the 
camera shifts to his perspective: The entire 
scene changes in an instant from a harm- 
less gathering to a 'distasteful brawl, ren- 
dering Stella a neglectful Mother. The 
camera cuts to the stubbed-out cigarettes 
in Laurel's food bowl, to the half-empty 
liquor glasses, to the half-drunk, unshape- 
ly men; we get Stephen's eye moving around 
the room. Laurel begins to cry at her fath- 
er's shouting, as the friends hurriedly and 
shamefacedly slip away. Stella has become 
the "object," and judged from Stephen's 
supposedly superior morality, is found to 
be lacking in Motherliness. 

These scenes initiate a pattern through 
which Stella is made into a "spectacle" (in 
a negative sense) both within the film story 
and for the cinema spectator. It is the first 
step on the way to her learning her "cor- 
rect" place as "spectator," as absent 
Mother (as she gradually realizes through 
the upper-class judgments of her that she 
is an embarrassment to her child). The 
second step is for both audience and Stella 
to validate the alternative model of the 
upper-class Morrison family, set up over 
and against Stella. The lower-class Stella 
and the cinema audience thus become the 
admiring spectators of the Morrison's per- 
fect lifestyle. Other figures are brought in 
to provide further negative judgments of 
Stella as Mother. For example, Stella does 
not take Laurel to cultural events, so the 
schoolteacher has to do this; Stella then 
behaves loudly in public with an ill-man- 
nered man, where she is seen by the teach- 
er. Moreover, Laurel's peers indicate dis- 
approval of Stella by refusing to attend 
Laurel's party, and later on her upper-class 
friends at the hotel laugh outright at Stel- 
la's appearance. By implicating us — the 
cinema spectator — in this process of rejec- 
tion, we are made to accede to the "right- 
ness" of Stella's renunciation of her daugh- 
ter, and thus made to agree with Stella's 
position as absent Mother. 

Once the lacks in Stella's Mothering 
have been established from the upper-class 
perspective (which is synonymous with pa- 
triarchy's construction of the ideal Moth- 
er), we are shown this "Ideal" in the con- 
crete form of Helen Morrison. Refined, 
calm, and decorous, devoted to her home 
and children, she embodies the all-nurtur- 
ing, self-effacing Mother. She is a saintly 
figure, worshipped by Laurel because she 
gives the child everything she needs and 
asks nothing in return (she is even tender 
toward Stella, for whom she shows "pity" 
without being condescending). Modern 



viewers may find these scenes embarras- 
singly crude in their idealization of upper- 
class life, but within the film's narrative 
this is obviously the desired world: the 
happy realm where all Oedipal conflicts 
are effaced and family members exude 
perfect harmony. The contrast with Stel- 
la's world could not be more dramatic; it 
reveals her total lack of refinement. 

But if unmannerliness were the sum of 
Stella's faults, patriarchy would not be as 
threatened by her as it evidently is, nor de- 
mand such a drastic restitution as the re- 
nunciation of her child. What is behind 
this demand for such an extreme sacrifice 
on Stella's part? What has she really done 
to violate patriarchy's conception of the 

The clue to answering this question lies 
in her initial resistance to Mothering, for 
"selfish" reasons, and her subsequent en- 
thusiastic embracing of Motherhood. The 
refusal and then the avid assumption of 
the role are linked from a patriarchal point 
of view through the same "fault," namely 
that Stella is interested in pleasing herself. 
She refuses Mothering when she does not 
see anything in it for her, when it seems 
only to stand in the way of fun; but she 
takes it up avidly once she realizes that it 
can give her pleasure, and can add more to 
her life than the stuffy Stephen can! Short- 
ly after Stephen has left, Stella says, "I 
, thought people were crazy to have kids 
\ right away. But I'm crazy about her. Who 
wouldn't be?" And later on, talking on the 
train to Munn (who would clearly like a 
Fully sexual relationship with her), Stella 
Remarks, "Laurel uses up all the feelings I 
l\ave; I don't have any for anyone else." 
\ In getting so much pleasure for herself 
out of Laurel, Stella violates the patriar- 
chal myth of the self-abnegating Mother, 
who is supposed to be completely devoted 
Ad nurturing but not satisfy any of her 
needs through the relationship with her 
child. She is somehow supposed to keep 
herself apart while giving everything to the 
child; she is certainly not supposed to pre- 
fer the child to the husband, since this 
kind of bonding threatens patriarchy. 

That Laurel returns Stella's passion 
only compounds the problem: The film 
portrays Laurel as devoted to her mother 
to an unhealthy degree, as caring too 
much, or more than is good for her. In 
contrast to the worshipful stance that 
Laurel has to Mrs. Morrison, her love for 
her own mother is physical, tender, and 
selfless. For instance, on one occasion Stel- 
la's crassness offends the child deeply (she 
nearly puts face cream all over Laurel's 
lovely picture of Mrs. Morrison), but Lau- 

Stella Dallas (1937). The confrontation between 
Mrs. Morrison (left) and Stella toward the end 
of the film highlights the contrast of the Good, 
Ideal Mother and the "resisting" Mother that 
has been a theme throughout the film. Photo 
courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art/Film 
Stills Archive. 

rel forgives her and tenderly brushes her 
hair. Most remarkable^ is the train se- 
quence, where Laurel overhears her friends 
ridiculing her mother. Hurt for her moth- 
er (not for herself), she creeps down into • 
Stella's bunk and kisses her tenderly, 
snuggling up to her under the covers. Fi- 
nally, of course, Laurel is almost ready to 
give up her own chance for the pleasures of 
the Morrison family and upper-class life 
when she realizes why Stella wanted to let 
the Morrisons have her. It takes Stella's 
trick to make Laurel stay (and I'll come 
back to this "trick" in a moment). 

The very mutuality of this Mother- 
daughter relationship makes it even more 
threatening and in need of disruption 
than, for example, the one-sided dedica- 
tion to the daughter in Mildred Pierce. 
That film highlights the dangerous narcis- 
sism of a love like Mildred's (where the 
investment in the child is tantamount to 
merging, to abandoning the boundaries 
altogether). This love must be punished 
not only because it excludes men (as does 
Stella's relationship to Laurel), but also 
because of the threat that deep female-to- 
female bonding poses in patriarchy. Veda's 
negative bonding (she is tied through 
hatred) offers a kind of protection for pa- 
triarchy; it ensures that Mildred's love will 
be destructive and self-defeating. 

In contrast, Stella Dallas in the end 
provides an example of Mother love that is 
properly curtailed and subordinated to 
what patriarchy considers best for the 
child. In renouncing Laurel, Stella is only 
doing what the Good Mother should do, 
according to the film's ideology. By first 
making Stella into a "spectacle" (i.e., by 
applying an external standard to her ac- 
tions and values), the film "educates" Stel- 
la into her "correct" position of Mother- 
as-spectator, Mother as absent. 

Stella's entry into the Morrison house- 
hold at once summarizes her prior "unfit- 
ness" and represents her readiness to suc- 
cumb to the persistent demands that have 
been made on her throughout the film. In 
this amazing scene, shot from the butler's 
perspective, she is still a "spectacle" viewed 
from the upper-class position: She stands, 
more ridiculously clad than ever, on the 
threshold of the huge mansion, her figure 
eclipsed by the luxurious surroundings 
that overwhelm her with awe and admira- 
tion. It is the lower-class stance, as Stella 
gawks from the outside at the way the rich 

Incongruous within the house, Stella 
must be literally pushed outside — but of 
her own volition. The decorous, idealized 
Morrison family could not be seen depriv- 
ing Stella of her child (remember: Mrs. 
Morrison is represented as tender toward 
Stella), so Stella must do it herself. Para- 
doxically, the only method she can con- 
ceive of, once she realizes Laurel's unwav- 
ering commitment to her, is by pretending 
to step outside of her Mother role. "A 
woman wants to be something else besides 
a mother," she tells a crestfallen Laurel, 

who has left the Morrisons to be at home 
with her. Ironically, through these decep- 
tive words, Stella is binding herself into the 
prescribed Mother role; her self-sacrificing 
"trick" — her pretense that she is weary of 
Mothering — is the only way she can achieve 
her required place as "spectator," relin- 
quishing the central place she had illicitly 

Structured as a "screen" within the 
screen, the final sequence of Laurel's wed- 
ding literalizes Stella's position as the 
Mother-spectator. We recall the previous 
movie scene (Stephen and Stella looking at 
the romantic upper-class couples on the 
screen) as Stella stands outside the window 
of the Morrison house, looking in on her 
daughter's wedding, unseen by Laurel. 
Stella stares from the outside at the upper- 
class "ideal" world inside. And as specta- 
tors in the cinema, identifying with the 
camera (and thus with Stella's gaze), we 
learn what it is to be a Mother in patriar- 
chy — it is to renounce, to be on the out- 
side, and to take pleasure in this position- 
ing. Stella's triumphant look as she turns 
away from the window to the camera as- 
sures us she is satisfied to be reduced to 
spectator. Her desires for herself no longer 
count, merged as they are with those of her 
daughter. While the cinema spectator feels 
a certain sadness in Stella's position, she 
also identifies with Laurel and with her 
attainment of what we have all been so- 
cialized to desire — romantic marriage into 
the upper class. We thus accede to the 
necessity for Stella's sacrifice. 

With Stella Dallas, we begin to see why 
the Mother has so rarely occupied the cen- 
ter of the narrative: For how can the spec- 
tator be subject, at least in the sense of 
controlling the action? The Mother can 
only be subject to the degree that she re- 
sists her culturally prescribed positioning, 
as Stella does at first. It is Stella's resis- 
tance that sets the narrative in motion, and 
provides the opportunity to teach her as 
well as the spectator the Mother's "cor- 
rect" place. 

Given the prevalence of the Mother-as 
spectator myth, it is not surprising that 
feminists have had trouble dealing with 
the Mother as subject. An analysis of the 
psychoanalytic barriers to "seeing" the 
Mother needs to be accompanied by an 
analysis of cultural myths that define the 
Good Mother as absent, and the Bad 
Mother as present but resisting. We have 
suppressed too long our anger at our moth- 
ers because of the apparently anti-woman 
stance this leads to. We need to work 
through our anger so that we can under- 
stand how the patriarchal construction of 
the Mother has made her position an un- 
tenable one. 

Unfortunately, today's representations 
of the Mother are not much better than 
that in Stella Dallas, made in 1937. Ironi- 
cally, the mass media response to the recent 
women's movement has led to numerous 
representations of the nurturing Father, as 

well as a split of the female image into 
old-style Mothers and new-style efficient 
career women. Kramer Versus Kramer es- 
tablished the basic model for the '80s: The 
wife leaves her husband to become a suc- 
cessful career woman, willingly abandon- 
ing her child to pursue her own needs. The 
husband steps into the gap she leaves and 
develops a close, loving relationship to his 
son, at some cost to his career — which he 
willingly shoulders. If the wife, like Stella, 
is reduced to a "spectator" (she returns to 
peek in on her child's doings), it is ulti- 
mately because she is also (albeit in a very 
different way) a Bad Mother. Meanwhile, 
the husband pals up with a solid, old-style 
earth Mother who lives in his apartment 
building, just so that we know how far his 
wife has strayed. Cold, angular career 
women, often sexually aggressive, have 
come to dominate the popular media while 
Fathers are becoming nurturing. (The 
World According to Garp is another recent 
example.) And there are also plenty of sa- 
distic Mothers around (Mommie Dearest). 
Thus, the entire structure of sex-role 
stereotyping remains intact. The only 
change is that men can now acquire previ- 
ously forbidden "feminine" qualities. But 
career women immediately lose their warm 
qualities, so that even if they do combine 
mothering and career, they cannot be 
Good Mothers. It is depressing that the 
popular media have only been able to 
respond to the women's movement in 
terms of what it has opened up for men. It 
is up to feminists to redefine the position 
of the Mother as participant, initiator of 
action — as subject in her own right, capa- 
ble of a life with many dimensions. 

1 . See Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Mother 
hood as Experience and Institution (New York 
Norton, 1976); Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mer 
maid and the Minotaur (New York: Harper & 
Row, 1977); Jane Lazarre, The Mother- 
Knot (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976). 

2. Examples of films embodying this myth 
are: A Fool There Was (1914), Meet Me in' 
St. Louis (1944), Christopher Strong (1933J? 
Our Daily Bread (1937), The River (1950) 
The Searchers (1956). 

3. Examples are: Craig s Wife (1936), Little 
Foxes (1941), Now Voyager (1942), Marnie 
(1966); most recently: Mommie Dearest (1981), 
Frances (1982). 

4. Examples are: Griffith's films, The Blot 
(1921), Imitation of Life (1934, 1959: the black 
Mother in both versions), Stella Dallas (1937), 
The Southerner (1945), Mildred Pierce (1946), 
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). 

5. Examples are: Alice Adams (1935), Pride and 
Prejudice (1940), Man Who Came to Dinner 
(1941), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Splen- 
dour in the Grass (1961). 

6. Ben Brewster, "A Scene at the Movies," 
Screen, Vol. 23, No. 2 (July-August 1982), p. 5. 

E. Ann Kaplan teaches film and literature at 
Rutgers University. She has published widely on 
women in film. Her book on Fritz Lang ap- 
peared in 1981 and her book Women in Film: 
Both Sides of the Camera will be published by 
Methuen in September 1983. 

This interview with Sandra Osawa (SO) 
and Peggy Barnett (PB) was conducted by 
Cecilia Vicuna (CV) at the American In- 
dian Film and Video Festival in New York 
in November 1982. 

CV: How many tapes have you done, and 
which was the first? 

SO: I have produced and written approxi- 
mately a dozen half-hour videotapes deal- 
ing with the Native American experience. 
The first series was produced for KNBC in 
Los Angeles. It was a 10-part half-hour 
series exploring the various facets of Native 
American life, and it was aired in 1975. 

PB: You must remember that there was 
nothing done by Indians up to that point. 

SO: Right. This was the first series pro- 
duced, written, and acted entirely by Na- 
tive Americans. This series is now being 
distributed by Brigham Young University 
in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, I have a 
copy in Seattle that I sometimes release for 
use in libraries and schools, particularly in 
the Northwest. 

CV: How did you get started? 

SO: My grandfather always pushed us in 
our education. He always believed that we 
should become educated, that we should 
be able to survive in today's world, so I al- 
ways grew up with a feeling that I would go 
to high school and college. I think I got 
started when I was working with my own 
tribe. I realized that we read the same 
newspapers, we listen to the same radio 
programs and TV everyone else does, we 
basically go to the same schools (even 
though they are on the reservation, the 
schools are controlled by non-Indian peo- 
ple), so I felt a great need to get involved in 
communications. We started on a local 
level by producing the Makah Times. ' In 
addition, we started to appear on local 
Seattle TV. 

CV: How did you do the KNBC series? 

SO: We launched a two-point attack. One 
community group went to KNBC and de- 
manded that the station do something 
about Native Americans. After this first 
onslaught, the producer said, "OK, but 
who do you have that's Native American 
who could handle this?" So they men- 
tioned my name. The second wave was 
when I went to meet the producer and his 
approach was to hire a writer and a pro- 
ducer for me. I told him that I could do it 
myself. At that point he said, "We will give 
you a chance." 

CV: What about your work here in the 

SO: For the American Indian Film and 
Video Festival, they chose to air The Black 
Hills Are Not for Sale, about the issue of 
uranium mining and drilling in South Da- 
kota. It documents the coalition of farm- 
ers, environmentalists, and Native Ameri- 
cans who were coming together to resist 
further exploitation of the land. We video- 
taped the meetings at the International 


Cecilia Vicuna 

Top to bottom: Peggy Barnett, photo by Jesse 
Cooday; Sandra Osawa, photo by Yasu Osawa; 
Katherine Smith, a Navajo elder, photo by Up- 
stream Productions. 

Survival Gathering. For some time I've 
been concerned to show the special rela- 
tionship that I believe all Native people 
have with the land, and in this videotape 
we highlight the fact that, in our view, the 
Black Hills are the spiritual birthplace of 
the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne people. 
Most people should know that this rela- 
tionship is a real religion and that when 
you contaminate the land you are seriously 
threatening our Native American culture 
and religion. There are approximately four 
state areas that have been termed "nation- 
al sacrifice areas" by the government, be- 
cause they know that once they start to 
mine uranium, and attempt to bury the 
tailings on the reservation, it contaminates 
the water and air. 

PB: The American Indian Movement has 
800 acres of liberated zone in the Black 
Hills right now. It is known as Yellow 
Thunder Camp. However, we have been in 
court over the situation. Our legal defense 
is the Indian Freedom of Religion Act of 
1978, and Article 6 of the Constitution. 2 
At the beginning, when our people first 
went to Yellow Thunder Camp, the author- 
ities were saying, "Oh, religious freedom, 
that's just a term Indian people use loose- 
ly. Actually, there's no substance to it, it 
can't be proved." But the government sent 
in archaeologists to determine if in fact 
the area was a religious site, and so far they 
have only proved what we said in the be- 
ginning. Yellow Thunder Camp has been 
nominated one of the religious sites in the 
country. This special relationship is not 
just a contact we have with the land; it is a 
direct responsibility. Phillip Deere, a re- 
spected Indian Medicine Man and one of 
the religious advisors to the American In- 
dian Movement, told us that at one time 
we were all one people, and that the red 
man was given the Western hemisphere to 
take care of. And that's why there has been 
so much resistance from Indian people 
throughout the hemisphere, because we 
realize that we have a responsibility that 
has been given us by the highest order of 
the law of nature. That is where we begin. 
SO: We look at the land as our mother, 
and from your mother comes all life. That's 
another beginning, another foundation for 
our philosophy. Many times you can see it 
in everyday life: Women were given the re- 
sponsibility of carrying on the people. 

CV: Would you say that people are more 
willing now to listen to the Indian's vision 
because the land is being contaminated, 
and they realize that it has to be taken 
care of? 

PB: I think Indian people have been talk- 
ing about the sacredness of the land for 
many years. You can look at the speeches 
from the beginning of the contact with 
non-Indian people and you can see the 
warnings, 400 years ago, of what was going 
to happen if they didn't listen to what our 
people were saying. Now in South Dakota 
the farmers are forced to make an alliance 
with the Indians because they are both ex- 

©1983 Cecilia Vicuna 

ploited by energy companies, they are both 
having their water and air contaminated. 
They have no other choice but to join to- 
gether and develop an alliance. Their whole 
survival depends on it. 3 

CV: How do you fund your work? 

SO: Well, for example, The Black Hills was 
funded by an Indian communications 
group in Seattle which had received Nation- 
Endowment money for research — basically 
the research we were doing. I would really 
like to see this project receive more fund- 
ing so that a really complete program 
could be made, but it is very difficult to re- 
ceive funding for this kind of film. In fact 
you find that there is very little about polit- 
ical issues or politics in Native American 
films. Wherever you find real poverty, peo- 
ple have trouble communicating. When 
you don't have access to, or the ability to 
communicate with, other tribes, your sense 
of poverty is maintained. For example, the 
Bureau of Indian Affairs has always been 
reluctant to fund anything dealing with 
film; I know because I have worked with 
my tribe for quite some time. One of the 
first things we tried to do was to get money 
to make films and videotapes, but the 
BIA's response was always "no." Also, 
after the Watergate period, Marlon Brando 
and several others tried to get a series deal- 
ing with Native American concerns, and 
the answer was always "no." Maybe the 
public isn't ready. 

CV: What about distribution? 

SO: I really haven't worked on distribution. 
We didn't have the means, but we wanted 
to be sure they got out to the Indian peo- 
ple, especially in the BIA's schools. Even 
though the BIA has a very bad reputation 
around the country, they were exactly the 
institution that needed to be informed. As 
you know, the media are largely controlled 
by the white man. We have been excluded 
from all aspects of the media and I think it 
is very important that other voices be 
heard. Now minorities are trying to get in- 
side the system and participate. 

CV: You have had no response from the 
public television networks? 

SO: There's basically been no response 
from them. We were given a great oppor- 
tunity at KNBC, but it was aired at 6:30 
a.m., which is not exactly prime time. But 
we were on the air, and the products were 
finished. I believe that has helped people 
to see that Native Americans can produce, 
and can write scripts, and this is very im- 
portant. You are continually faced with 
proving your credibility in the media if you 
are a minority. 

PB: One of the things we are trying to do 
at the International Treaty Council is to 
build a library of selected works done by 
Indian people, but many of the films we 
have are done by non-Indian people about 
Indian people. We are very issue-oriented 
in terms of the political situation, so we 
hope that filmmakers and people who are 
in the media will send us their work. We 

have a tremendous outlet all over the 
world, especially in Europe. We have an 
office in Geneva, Switzerland, run by Mario 
Ibarra, a Mapuche Indian. We are also 
establishing an Indian Audio Bureau, 
which will work with all the established 
Indian radio stations throughout the coun- 
try. At this point we are looking for fund- 
ing to get that project on the way. 

CV: Would you say that you find more 
response to your materials outside the 

PB: Oh yes. There are many countries, 
such as France and in the Caribbean area 
(and in fact we have a delegation in Nica- 
ragua right now), that are interested in re- 
educating the people away from the con- 
stant cowboy-Indian movie syndrome. 
When we go to another country we tell 
them that it's not going to do us any good 
to come and talk to them if their children 
are not going to be educated from the be- 
ginning about the true history of our peo- 
ple. In fact one of our commitments with 
the Iraqi Women's Federation is that they 
will translate the 1868 Fort Landon Treaty 
into Arabic and make it available to all 
their people. But this country doesn't want 
to be educated! This country wants to go to 
Disneyland, to be entertained. They don't 
want to see anything with any political 
substance to upset them because they are 
busy working the eight-hour day and then 
they go home and they don't want to watch 
anything about the contamination of the 
land. They have enough bad news as it is 
all day, and this is the syndrome. Educa- 
tion in this country is such a lie. How do 
you get back and undo all the lies that have 
been told? We need to look at a different 
approach to education, to look at young 
children who will grow up with another 
attitude, because education about Indian 
people has been hidden. 

CV: What other projects do you have? 

PB: Perhaps we should talk about Big 
Mountain, the traditional homeland of the 
Navajo, and of Louise Benally and her 
mother and sisters. There had been a relo- 
cation process because of coal mining, and 
they opposed it and were arrested. 4 This 
is very important both in terms of reli- 
gious freedom and human rights. Reloca- 
tion is a violation of about 10 international 
covenants, which was also brought up at 
the Russell Tribunal. 

SO: We have some 14 videotapes already 
shot on location in the Big Mountain area 
in the Southwest, and we want to finish the 
Benally videotape and get out a half-hour 

CV: Sandra, I've heard that you are also a 
poet. Would you like to talk about the re- 
lation between your poetry and films? 

SO: That's really a good question because, 
in my opinion, a poem is the briefest way 
that you can sum up your feelings, and I 
think that film should also be brief and to 
the point. A good poem is very concrete, 
the same as a good film. I think the script 

is a very critical area, because we first have 
to address the writing at script level before 
we can get good movies. I've joined the 
Writer's Guild of America West, but I 
don't know of any other Native American 
women writers in the union who are work- 
ing with scripts. I am really hopeful that 
someday something that I've written can 
be produced. I am interested in the area of 
contemporary dramatic fiction concerning 
Native Americans, and I first completed a 
script called Dakah, about a fictional In- 
dian person from my own tribe in the 
Northwest. It deals with a slice of her life, 
and I hope it gives some awareness about 
the Indian as an ordinary person, as a hu- 
man being. I'm hopeful that it will help 
people to realize that the stereotyped image 
of the Indian has to be taken away. You al- 
ways see the Indian (even at this film festi- 
val) sitting by the river smoking a peace 
pipe, or sitting around the drums in the 
middle of the bushes; you always see him 
dancing, of course, doing something very 
colorful. This tends to create a romanti- 
cized picture of the Indian person. I'd real- 
ly like to see current images from today. It 
could be an Indian walking up and down 
the street in tennis shoes, drinking a coke, 
or whatever — this is what we haven't seen. 
Too many of us fall into the same pattern 
of trying to copy the white man's version of 
what we are. Some of the films at this festi- 
val were done by non-Indian people, so 
that explains it in part. But this is the trap 
we fall into ourselves, because we see the 
same movies presented to us and so there- 
fore that appears to be the "truth." 

PB: One of the comments made about The 
Black Hills Are Not for Sale was: "We 
finally got a chance to hear what the In- 
dians have to say." There is a philosophy 
in the Indian movement: We know that 
Indian people have resisted from the very 
beginning, and we also know that our 
brothers and sisters in El Salvador and 
Guatemala are now going through what we 
went through 100 years ago. And actually 
there's always been resistance — that's why 
we are still here. 

1 . The Makah Times is an independent news- 
paper produced by the Makah community of 
Neahbay, Washington. 

2. Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution guaran- 
tees "the right to a speedy and public trial, by 
an impartial jury. . .and to be informed of the 
nature and cause of the accusation" with provi- 
sions for adequate defense. 

3; The office of the International Treaty Council 
has documentation (available for distribution) 
on the effects of low-level radiation and steriliza- 
tion. Write: ITC Office, 777 United Nations 
Plaza, Suite 10F, NY NY 10017; phone (212) 

4. The Benally women tore down the fences 
erected by officials to impound their sheep. 
They were arrested, then freed; the case never 
went to trial. 

Cecilia Vicuna is a Chilean poet, artist, and film- 
maker who lives and teaches in New York City. 
Her forthcoming book is Precarious Works. 


\^ |M*0, 

^aaaaww i aaas^ 


who turned the light away 

the light away from her 

she will not be placed in darkness 

she will be present in darkness 

only to be apparent 

to appear without image 

to be heard — unseen 

she lightens her own reading 

she reads by the reflection of herself 

in mind of herself she listens 

she saw the story in a moment 

the end began — where the beginning ended 

inseparable in the myth of her memory 

in the sound of her voice 

the sounds were always behind 

behind in the depths of her mind 

drowned in the drumming of the passing days 

her hands reached out 
she could only glimpse the shadow 
the faint reflection of the fading image 
stumbling on the traces of her knowing 
sinking in the ruts of her experience 
slipping amongst the shadows of her story 
she couldn't reach herself 

she begins again 

she reads by the sun 

her face to the moon 

she is guided by darkness 

threatened by those things that might have been 

could have happened 

surrounded by sounds no longer heard 

images lost from sight 

regathered to the sound of her voice 
reaped to the rhythm of her body 
the words dance in a moment of light 
the image of the story is apparent 

the sense of the story is seen 

but which moment of beginning 

follows which moment of end 

is the end beginning 

or the beginning ending 

she is told the end is not the beginning 

if it were — she is told 

how could she know the which from the witch 
or the which from the why 

the violence of sequence 

tears at the threads of her thoughts 

the folds of light fade into deep shadows 

the sense of her dreams is disturbed 

by the presence of a past not past 

a past that holds her with fingers sharpened on logic 

nails hardened with rationality 

cutting the flow of her thoughts 

forcing her back within herself 

damned by the rattle of words 

words already sentenced 

imprisoned in meaning 

shot full with pellets of punctuation 

exhausted with explanation 

in her own voice she cried 

the end cannot be confused with the end that ended 

somewhere — but not here 

not here at the beginning 

end of reel 


end to end 

cut to white 

then black 

she raised her hand 

©1983 Lis Rhodes 

hold still shot of raised hand 
sound of shot still 

she said that i was to wake her in an hour and a half 

if it didn't rain 

it is still raining what should i do 

should i wake her or should i let her sleep longer 

she begins to read 

she reads in silence 

blurring her mind with the sound of words 


reaching back into darkness 

after the frames of her raised hand 

stretch print the next frames six times 

she tries to read 

the words fall away 

fall through 

her mind twisting in sharp circles 

herself circling in on herself 

diverging along sudden tangents 

tangents without direction 

there could be no direction 

on her own 

on her own she was just passing time 

passing time from one hand to one hand 

enclosed behind a closed door 

cut out ten black frames where the camera stopped 

she slept a little this morning 

pale with self-absorption 

flicker on camera — loop print with close-up 

over and over — round and round 

her head was cluttered with blank images 

perfectly symmetrical and transparent 

she could look at herself 

in reflection 

but the reflection was not hers 

still of camera to man's eye 
still no sound 

she writes on the small white frames 

turns them over 

hidden under the smooth surface 

her thoughts are framed 

in reflection 

lengthen next frames 
stretch hand in shadow 
frame paper in mid-shot 
move around from 
top right of frame 
in a complete circle 
no sound 

framed in reflection 

her image fixed 

her thoughts framed 

her image outside the frame 

trying to be in frame 

reframed — by whom 
in whose frame 

end of reel two 

another camera movement 

fading to white 

join end to end 

sound of footsteps moving backwards and forwards 

the closer she looked 

the more she resented herself 

for minding 

could she not mind for herself 

could she change her mind 

be mindless 

mind that which she had a mind 

to mind 

total length four hundred and forty feet 

print next twenty feet head to tail 

and now she wrote 

and now mountains do not cloud over 

let us wash our hair and stare 

stare at mountains 

how sweet are suns and suns 

and the season 

the sea or the season 

and the roads 

roads are often neglected 

how can you feel so reasonably 

polaroid photo with unseen barely visible 

camera movement — reading backwards 

hold last frame 

sound of shot — mixed with footsteps running in frame 

the first drops of rain 

smash against the window 

the tree is olive with new leaves 

the white stairs let in light 

the intention or intensification is carried 

out not by the action but by the illumination 



sound of footsteps running away 

countering the inward movement of the zoom 

tracking herself 

through the frame 

forced by the sound of the footsteps 

to fear the constriction of the frame 

tracking herself 

through the frame 

captured contained 

she lost track 

include optical print of the first section 

pace the soundtrack exactly 

pace out a rectangle thirty by forty feet 

always moving in the same direction 

held in line — underline 

always under 


in a blank frame 

invisible in mid-frame 

head of reel one (105 ft) 


over exposed 

exposed as 

imposed on 

impaled by 

there had been no decisions 

no choice 

it had been decided 

she had no choice 

she said that i was to wake her in an hour and a half if it 

didn't rain 

it is still raining what should i do 

should i wake her or should i let her sleep longer 

mistake at the beginning of the camera movement 


start again — sound of running footsteps 

was she working back to front 

front to back 

images before thought 

words prescribing images — images prescribing sounds 

which was in front of why 

was it just the orientation of her look 

the position of her perception 

the back of the front 

or the front of the back 

she listened 

she looked at the surroundings of the images 

close-up of the title fills the frame 
the sound of the shot is louder 

she watched herself being looked at 

she looked at herself being watched 

but she could not perceive herself 

as the subject of the sentence 

as it was written 

as it was read 

the context defined her as the object of the explanation 

stopped the action — re-action 
she began to read 
she began to reread 
the story backwards 
it began 

i dreamt last night that i was dead 

i was closed from my life 

from time and knowing 

i could see her and speak with her 

she was dead 

she said that i was to wake her in an hour and a half 

if it didn't rain 

it is still raining what should i do 

should i wake her or should i let her sleep longer 

there remained several strands . 

each black and white 

threads of possible meaning 

nothing was unraveled — nothing revealed 

no singularity of structure or logic 

she looked more closely 

she read more clearly 

she saw that 

she was both the subject and the object 

she was seen and she saw 

she was seen as object 

she saw as subject 

but what she saw as subject was 

modified by how she was seen as object 

she objected 

she refused to be framed 

she raised her hand 
stopped the action 
she began to read 
she began to reread 


she raised her hand 

All photos from Light Reading (1978) by Lis Rhodes. 


This issue of Heresies seeks to reinforce connections among 
many women who believe that feminist visual work is a neglected 
resource. Some of our articles should awaken the idea that watch- 
ing TV and movies is neither simple nor harmless. In order to 
educate ourselves about our own images, and how we are audio- 
visually controlled, we must actively and knowledgeably watch 
women's film, video, slide shows, and other media. This media is 
not regularly consumed by CBS, PBS, UA, etc., implying that the 
work too clearly illuminates our understanding of women's lives. 

In women's work, we become the creative subjects rather than 
remaining the necessary objects, and because we do not accept the 
media's silencing of women's contribution, we have had to develop 
other systems of exhibition and distribution. This network is small 
and needs continual use if we are to continue to control it. The 
survival of the workers and their work depends on our support. 

Because there is a finite amount of public money available to 
women's media, relatively little work is shown. But there are some 
strategies that will help us bring women's media to the community. 
Women's culture has pockets of prosperity and areas of great 
dearth. Actively bringing films and tapes to areas of underdevelop- 
ment is a task each individual can initiate. Women and progressive 
groups must regularly exhibit independently produced work in 
addition to challenging museums, art theaters, libraries, and film 
clubs that do not. 

Film- and video-viewing can be a personally consciousness- 
raising event and need not include the aura of festival, series, or 
benefit. The difficulty for some women may be a resistance to pay- 
ing for the work brought into your home or basement. Women 
must be willing to spend as much money on women's work as we 
spend for commercial entertainment. We suggest pooling money to 
show selected work once a month or as often as you can. You don't 
have to be an established group to rent, watch, and discuss inde- 

Edith Becker 

pendently produced films and video. Also, if there are films and 
tapes that you believe a larger audience would enjoy, lobby your 
local educational and cable TV channels to show them. There is no 
limit to where women's film and video work can go if it gets sup- 
port from more women. 

Women's film programs can be shared among a small circle of 
friends or presented by feminist and other women's organizations 
at meetings or as a separate public film event. Sound projectors 
and video recorders can be rented from camera shops, equipment 
rental companies, some libraries, schools, YWCAs, churches, syn- 
agogues, banks, service clubs or other organizations. They may 
also be willing to provide meeting rooms as well as co-sponsor pro- 
grams of public interest. 

Program notes and a brief introduction of the films provide a 
background for the viewer as well as insight into the relationship 
between works shown. A discussion conducted by an experienced 
facilitator can further raise consciousness and encourage personal 
insights and ideas. A less formal atmosphere is achieved by 
regrouping chairs and providing light refreshments. Set up the 
screen and check the picture (and sound) well in advance of audi- 
ence arrival. If there is sound, place the speakers near the screen 
and try not to keep the audience waiting. 

The following guide is only a start to a women's media net- 
work. Remember: Many independently produced films and tapes 
are self- distributed. These works must be sought from the artists 
through exhibitors and publications. Phone calls and letters are 
necessary means for obtaining some of the work our list offers. You 
may need to be a member or go through your local library for use 
of some of the guides. If your library is not a member, you may ask 
them to join. Many of the books, periodicals, and directories list 
additional resource guides, bibliographies, filmographies, and 
information for funding series or special programs. 


American Federation of Arts, 41 East 65th St., 
NY, NY 10021. Independent cinema and some 
video, some by women. 

Asian Cine-Vision, 32 East Broadway, NY, NY 
10002. Tapes by Asians and Asian-Americans, 
some by women. 

Black Filmmaker Co-op and Black Filmmaker 
Foundation, 1 Centre St., WNYC-TV, NY, 
NY 10007. Distributes Black independent 
work and provides programming services. 

Document Associates, 211 East 43rd St., NY, 
NY 10017. Distributes International Women's 
Film Project collection. 

Electronic Arts Intermix, 84 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 

10011. Video art. 

Filmmakers Co-op, 175 Lexington Ave., NY, NY 
10016. Independently produced films, some 
by women. 

First-Run Features, 144 Bleeker St., NY, NY 

10012. American independent features, some 
by women. 

Goddess Films, PO Box 2446, Berkeley, CA 
94702. All the films of Barbara Hammer. 

International Women's Film Project, 3518 35th 
St. NW, Washington, DC 20016. Work by 
Women in Latin America and about U.S.- 
Latin American relations. 

Iris Films, Box 5353, Berkeley, CA 94705. Femi- 
nist film producers and distributors. 

Iris Video, PO Box 7133, Powderhorn Station, 
Minneapolis, MN 55407. Producers and dis- 
tributors of independent feminist tapes. 

Media Project, PO Box 4093, Portland, OR 
97208. Social issues and history tapes. 

Mountain Moving Picture Co., PO Box 1235, 
Evergreen, CO 80439. Feminist documen- 

New Day Films, PO Box 315, Franklin Lakes, 
NJ 07417. Feminist and social issue films. 

Pandora Films, 1697 Broadway, Rm. 1109, NY, 
NY 10019. Feminist and social issue films. 

Riverside Church Disarmament Program, 490 
Riverside Dr., NY, NY 10027. Six films and 
six slide shows on the disarmament move- 
ment, most by women. 

Second Decade Films, PO Box 1482, NY, NY 
10009. Independently produced women's 
films and tapes. 

Serious Business Co., 1145 Mandana Boulevard, 
Oakland, CA 94610. Independently produced 
documentaries and experimenal films by 

Third World Newsreel, 160 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 

10011. Produces and distributes social issue, 
anti-sexist, anti-racist films, some by women. 

Transition House Films, 25 West St., 5th Fl., 
Boston, MA 02111. Distributes We Will Not 
Be Beaten about battered women. 

University Community Video, 425 Ontario St. 
SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Social issue and 
documentary tapes. 

Video Data Bank, School of the Art Institute of 
Chicago, Columbus Dr. at Jackson Blvd., 
Chicago, IL 60603. Tapes about artists and by 
artists, many women included. 

Videofarm, 156 Drakes Lane, Summertown, TN 
38483. Tapes on natural childbirth by farm 

Videographics, 2918 Champa St., Denver, CO 
80205. Tapes on women in the arts and docu- 

Videowomen, 595 Broadway, 3rd Fl., NY, NY 

10012. Tapes of women's conferences and 

Women's Educational Media, 47 Cherry St., 

Somerville, MA 02144. Sound filmstrip, 
Straight Talk About Lesbians , available. 
Women Make Movies, 19 West 21st St., 2nd Fl., 
NY, NY 10011. Films and tapes by women. 
Documentary, narrative, and experimental. 


The local public library is an excellent re- 
source for women's films, as well as information 
and programming. Although film collections 
are usually located in state, county, and big city 
libraries, even the smallest libraries are usually 
associated with free film networks or co-ops. If 
your library does not have an "in-house" film 
collection, ask your librarian if films may be 
borrowed from a county, regional, or state col- 
lection. A catalog is usually available and the 
subject index should reveal a variety of films of 
special interest to women. 

Larger libraries may also have The Educa- 
tional Film Locator (New York: Bowker, 1980), 
an index to 50 university film services that rent 
films for about half what the distributor charges. 
University film services also issue their own in- 
dividual rental catalogs. Another useful refer- 
ence is the NICEM (National Information Cen- 
ter for Education Media) Index, which serves as 
a sort of Books in Print for films, listing thou- 
sands of titles and distributors. Distributors also 
offer their catalogs for the asking, and if you 
have more money than time, the distributor may 
be the way to go. — Anita Bologna 

Anita Bologna is the record librarian at the 
Donnel Library, New York City, and was for- 
merly an audiovisual consultant and film librar- 
ian for the New Hampshire State Library. 



Write for series schedules and guidelines for 

submitting work for screenings. Some publish 


Anthology Film Archives, 491 Broadway, NY, 
NY 10012. Screenings are suspended until 
1984. The Jerome Hill Publications Library is 
operating by appointment. 

Artists Space, 105 Hudson St., NY, NY 10013. 
Programs of film and some video. 

Chicago Filmmakers, 6 West Hubbard, Chi- 
cago, IL 60610. Regular screenings of new 
and avant-garde films. 

Collective for Living Cinema, 52 White St., NY, 
NY 10013. Presents avant-garde films. 

El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 
10029. Annual festival of Latino- and Latina- 
produced film and video. 

Film Forum 1, 57 Watts St., NY, NY 10013. 
Premieres U.S. and foreign independent film. 

The Kitchen, 59 Wooster St., NY, NY 10012. 
Exhibits all forms of media art; also distrib- 
utes videotapes. 

Millennium, 66 East 4th St., NY, NY 10003. 
Screens new domestic and foreign films, most- 
ly experimental. Publishes Millennium Film 

Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd St., NY, 
NY 10019. Co-sponsors New Directors/New 
Films Series, Cineprobe, What's Happening? 
and Video Viewpoints. 

Pacific Film Archives, 2621 Durant Ave., Berke- 
ley, CA 94704. Premieres independent film. 
Publishes Program Notes. 

San Francisco Cinematheque, 480 Potrero Ave., 
San Francisco, CA 94121. Showcase for in- 
dependent and experimental film. 

Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madi- 
son Ave., NY, NY 10021. Presents New Amer- 
ican Filmmakers Series. 


American Film Institute, JFK Center for the 
Performing Arts, Washington, DC 20566. 
Guidance to film educators and reference in- 
formation. Published AFI catalog of Motion 
Picture Features: 1921-1930 and 1961-1970; 
ateoFactfile, Nos. 1-13. 

American Library Association, 50 E. Huron,. 
Chicago, IL 60611. Promotes libraries' film 
acquisition and programming. 

Cine Information, 215 West 90th St., NY, NY 
10024. Services to support distribution and 
use of film and tape. 

Consortium of University Film Centers, A/V 
Services, 330 Kent State University Library, 
Kent, OH 44242. Cooperative planning of 
film information, exchange, and distribution. 

Council on International Non-Theatrical Events 
(CINE), 1201 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 
20036. Coordinates U.S.-made shorts and 
presents awards. Publishes CINE yearbook. 

Educational Film Library Association, 43 West 
61st St., NY, NY 10023. Promotes produc- 
tion, distribution, and use of A/V materials; 
information center for schools, libraries, and 
organizations. Publishes EFLA Bulletin and 

Media Alliance, 245 West 75th St., NY, NY 
10023. Information clearinghouse on elec- 
tronic arts. 

Media Network, 208 West 13th St., NY, NY 
10011. Clearinghouse for information on so- 
cial issue media; houses the Reproductive 
Rights National Network. 

New York Film Council, 43 West 61st St., 9th 
Fl., NY, NY 10023. Promotes nontheatrical 
use and distribution of film and tape in the 



Cinema of Women, 156 Swaton Rd., London 
E3, England. Distributes women's films. 

Cine-mujer, Apartado Aereo 2758, Bogota, DE 
Colombia. Feminist film producers; informa- 
tion and sales available. 

Circles, PO Box 172, London N66 DW, Eng- 
land. A women's film, video, and slide distri- 
bution network. 

Four Corners Film Workshop, 113 Roman Rd., 
London E2 OHU, England. Contributes to 
the development of experimental work. 

Frauen undFilm, Verlag Roter Stern, Postfach 
180147, D-6000, Frankfurt, West Germany. 
Feminist film magazine. 

South Wales Women's Film Coop, Chapter Arts 
Centre, Cardiff, South Wales. 


1. Films in Distribution 

Alternatives: A Filmography, by Nadine Covert 
& Esme Dick (New York: EFLA, 1974). 

Catalogue III, Young Filmmakers/Video Arts, 
Center for Arts Information, 625 Broadway, 
NY, NY 10012. 

Catalogue of Independent Women's Films, Syd- 
ney Filmmakers Co-op, PO Box 217, Kings 
Cross, NSW 2011 Australia. International 
listing, annotated; with distributors and sub- 
ject index. 

Catalyst: Media Review, A/V Center, 14 East 
60th St., NY, NY 10022. Annotated bibliogra- 
phy of a/v material relating to women and 

"Directory of American Labor Films," Film 
Library Quarterly, vol. 12, nos. 2/3 (1979). 
Many listings for labor women. 

"Filmographies of Women Directors," in Sexu- 
al Stratagems, by Patricia Erens (New York: 
Horizon Press, 1979). International listings of 
films in distribution. 

Films about Women, 2nd Ed. (1979), Penn. 
State University, A/V Services, Special Ser- 
vices Building, University Park, PA 16802. 

Films by Women, Canadian Filmmakers Distri- 
bution Center, 406 Jarvis St., Toronto, Ontar- 
io M4Y 2G6, Canada. 

Films by and/or about Women: 1972, Directory 
of Filmmakers, Films and Distributors, Inter- 
nationally, Past and Present, by Kaye Sullivan 
(Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1980), or 
write: Women's History Research Center, 
2325 Oak St., Berkeley, CA 94708. 

Films on the Women's Movement, by Janice K. 
Mendenhall (1973), U.S. General Services 
Administration, Office of Civil Rights, Wash- 
ington, DC 20405. 

Library of Congress Film Catalogue, Library of 
Congress, Washington, DC. Publishes annu- 
ally, Lists all films (many shorts) registered 
with Library of Congress. 

Past 60: The Older Women in Print and Film, 
by Carol Hollenshead (1977), Institute of Ger- 
ontology, University of Michigan, Sayne St. 
University, 520 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor, 
MI 48109. Over 60 listings, annotated, with 

Positive Images, by Linda Artel & Susan Wien- 
graf (San Francisco: Booklegger Press, 1976). 
A guide to nonsexist films for young people, 
with subject index, distributors. 

Reel Change: A Guide to Social Issue Films 
(1979), The Film Fund, PO Box 909, San 
Francisco, CA 94101. 

Women in Focus, by Jeanne Betancourt (1974). 
Pflaum Publishing Order Dept., 8121 Hamil- 
ton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45231. 91 films, an- 
notated, subject index, feminist perspective. 

Women in Focus 1982 Catalogue, Arts/Media 
Center, 456 West Broadway, Suite 204, Van- 

couver, British Columbia U5Y 1R3, Canada. 
Titles listed by subject. 

Women's Films: A Critical Guide (1975), Indi- 
ana University, A/V Center, Bloomington, IN 
47401. Select list of educational films, with 

Women 's Films in Print, by Bonnie Dawson (San 
Francisco: Booklegger Press, 1975). Anno- 
tated guide to 800 films; subject index. 

2. Women's Films 

Camera Obscura, PO Box 4517, Berkeley, CA 
94704. Journal of feminism and film theory. 

Films of Yvonne Rainer, by B. Ruby Rich (Min- 
neapolis: Walker Art Center, 1981). 

Journal of the University Film Association, vol. 
26, nos. 1-2 (1974). Special issue on women in 

Jump Cut, no. 24-25 (PO Box 865, Berkeley, CA 
94701). Special lesbian section. 

"Notes on Women's Cinema," Screen Pamphlet 
no. 2, ed. Claire Johnston, Society for Educa- 
tion in Films and TV, 63 Old Compton St., 
London W1V 5PN, England. 

Quarterly Review of Film Studies, vol. 3, no. 4 
(Fall 1978). Two landmark pieces on feminist 
criticism by Julia Lesage and Christine Gled- 

"Sex and Spectatorship," Screen, vol. 23, nos. 
3-4 (Sept./Oct. 1982). Several articles on 
women's independent film and media. 

Women and Film, vol. 1, no. 1 (1972) to vol. 2, 
no. 7 (1975). Only U.S. publication devoted to 
women's films; ceased publication in 1975. 

Women and Film: A Resource Handbook (1973), 
Association of American Colleges, 1818 R St., 
Washington, DC 20009. 

"Women in Film," Film Library Quarterly, vol. 
5, no. 1 (Winter 1971-72). 

Women Who Make Movies, by Sharon Smith 
(New York: Hopkinson & Blake, 1975). 
Sketches of women filmmakers and their film- 

Women's Pictures: Feminism and Cinema, by 
Annette Kuhn (London: Routledge & Kegan 
Paul, 1982). 

Work 1961-1973, by Yvonne Rainer (Halifax/ 
New York: Nova Scotia College of Art and 
Design/New York University Press, 1974). 

3. Resource Books 

Audio/Visual Market Place Multimedia Guide 
(New York: Bowker, 1982). Annotated lists of 
services, producers, distributors, associations, 
and equipment dealers. 

Directory of Women's Media, Women's Insti- 
tute for Freedom of the Press, 3306 Ross PI. 
NW, Washington, DC 20008. Updated annu- 
ally, majority of entries are of print media, 
entries are voluntary. 

Educational Film Locator of the Consortium of 
University Film Centers (New York: Bowker, 
1980). Rental libraries, subject listings, pro- 
ducers, distributor indexes, and annotated 
listing of all films. 

Film Programmers Guide to 16mm Rentals, by 
Linda Artel & Kathleen Weaver (1972), Reel 
Research, PO Box 6037, Albany, CA 94706. 

In Focus (New York: Film Fund, 1980). A com- 
prehensive guide to using films: program- 
ming, rentals, and equipment. Available 
through the Media Network. 

Landers Film Reviews, Landers Associates, Box 
27309, Escondido, CA 92027. Evaluates non- 
theatrical films of all subjects. 

North American Film and Video Directory: A 
Guide to Media Collections and Services (in 
U.S. and Canada), by Olga S. Weber (New 
York: Bowker, 1976). Catalogued by state or 
province, lists publications, universities, and 
colleges that make their films available. 


To whom it may concern: I'm presently 
incarcerated within Louisiana's so-called 
correction system and have been so for the 
last six years. Since coming here my aware- 
ness toward this oppressive regime has 
been broadened to the point that I'm get- 
ting hip to their thing. Before coming here 
I was aware of the racist nature Lnstiuuion- 
alized into this society in its many guises, 
overt and covert; however, being a male and 
Black who views myself as a liberal, think- 
ing individual, I wasn't aware that some of 
my concepts was supporting sexism. I nev- 
er knew, that by looking at the oppression 
of all the oppressed peoples of the world 
through the fate of the Black man and af- 
ter his liberation everything else would fall 
in order as being a system of patriarchy. I 
have been hearing terms like ERA, femi- 
nism, etc., but some kind of way never con- 
nected it to the overall picture of racism, 
that in order to have a true revolution and 
thus self-determination all traces of class, 
racism, sexism, and exploitation must be 
eradicated. Cats like George Jackson, Huey 
Newton, Malcolm X, Lenin, Karl Marx, 
and a few others, with a little Angela Davis 
every now and then, was my instructors 
through their writings. Until recently when 
I was shown your publication; this was the 
first time I've got firsthand information on 
how this system is designed to double its 
discrimination toward women, and in far 
more ways than men, women have caught 
the blunt end of its effects. Your booklet 
Heresies titled "Racism Is the Issue" really 
knocked the blind off my eyes in that I see 
the women's plight in a whole new light 
and have changed my ideology to embrace 
all forms of the .struggle. 

I had the opportunity to read only 
about half of the issue since at the time the 
guy whose issue I read was on the tier only 
for a few hours before he was moved to an- 
other camp, but I wrote down the address. 
How he came to obtain your booklet or 
how he learned of you all I don't know. 
Knowing that your organization is feminist 
and your aims are directed toward making 
the woman aware to man's exploitation of 
herself in a man-dominated society per- 
haps you are somewhat suspicious of me in 
saying I'm very much interested in your 
publication and, if possible, would very 
much like to receive some of your litera- 
ture. I ask that any excess literature you 
may have around, please send, as I'm 
anxious to broaden my awareness on this 
subject. There are a lot of militant-minded 
brothers here, hungry and in search for 
knowledge, not the brainwashing trash we 
have been forcefed all our lives since fall- 
ing from the womb. I've been discussing 
your booklet with them and they agree with 
me that in order for us to reform this sys- 
tem we cannot do it without the sisters be- 
ing in the struggle and must get insight 
into the overall picture from all sides. I will 
share the literature with all the brothers 
here. If, however, you feel that me being 
male and that you would rather deal spe- 

cifically with women, this I can understand 
and respect. Thank you in advance for 
your consideration and I have you to know 
that I salute you the sisters in the struggle. 

Respectfully yours, 
Anthony Henley 
Angola, La. 

Dear Hysterectomies: 

After being more or less amused by 
your tasteless rag (no pun intended) almost 
since its inception, you have finally printed 
a remark I do not want to let pass without 
comment. I quote: "The Nigerian author- 
ess, Chinua Achebe, has asked white au- 
thors to refrain from creating works like 
Conrad's Heart of Darkness in which Afri- 
cans are degraded" (Issue 15, Editorial 

For every thoughtful person of what- 
ever color, Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a 
work of fiction which is animated by a 
spirit of subtlety, depth and beauty. It is 
one work among many which clearly dem- 
onstrates that this particular author wrote 
on a level of philosophical profundity and 
stylistic sophistication which so far exceeds 
"Hysterectomies" pathetic efforts at "col- 
lective thought" as to make comparisons 

virtually impossible. Miss Achebe's feeble 
utterance blends seamlessly into a publica- 
tion in which there is rarely the slightest 
trace of intellectual decency in content or 
tone, issue after issue. "Sisters" on the 
primitive level of artistic awareness of 
Achebe in particular, and feminists in gen- 
eral, should at least be speculative about 
the writings of their betters before attempt- 
ing anything like a critical observation. 
Your magazine abounds in proclamations, 
judgments and accusations which time 
and again betray the shameless ignorance 
of its writers. It would be curious to see the 
manuscripts you receive to better appreci- 
ate the laborious work that must go into 
transforming the incoherent babblings of 
the ill-educated into something which fi- 
nally emerges as only minimally coherent 
and sane. 

Ronald McComb 
Seattle, Washington 

*Editors' Note: The original statement read: 
"The Nigerian author. . . " Chinua Achebe is a 
renowned male author. Enough said. 

(continued on inside back cover) 

Many men have a hearing problem. Their own statements can be cl 
audible, while those of women are not. 

This problem has been labelled the Selective Reality (SR) syndro 
a complex disease, known to have its roots in a socially conditioned 
for women. Paradoxically, observers of this male disorder report tha 
men exhibit an unrelenting desire for attention of any kind from wome 
A large percentage are actually unaware that women do not exist 
only to meet their needs. 

The SR syndrome cripples the ability of these men to 
communicate. The same issues and questions may arise aga 
and again, and the answers will go unheard. Total confus 
may cause them to resort to inappropriate, tactile means 
communication. Imagine living with such a crippling 
impairment of a faculty. 

If you are in an uncomfortable situation with a 
susnected SR man - trust your 
intuitions. Listen to 
your needs, not his. 
There's no need 
make excuses or 
justify your 
decisions. Just 
SAY NO, and 
walk away. 
and hang up 
the phone. 
You can't 
afford to 
waste your 
time: say 
what you 
wa nt , 


me. It i 
t these 

Special Section: 
Film and Feminism in Germany 
Today: The German Women's 
Movement; Helke Sander on Fem- 
inism and Film; Gertrud Koch on 
Female Voyeurism; Interviews 
with Helga Reidemeister, Jutta 
Bruckner, Christina Perincioli ; 
Reidemeister on Documentary 
Filmmaking; more. 

Still Available: 
Double Issue 24/25 $2.50 
Special Section: Lesbians and 
Film: Filmography of Lesbian 
Works, Lesbian Vampires, Les- 
bians in 'Nice' Films; Films of 
Barbara Hammer; Films of Jan 
Oxenberg; Growing Up Dyke 
with Hollywood; Celine and 
Julie Go Boating; Maedchen In 
Uniform; more. 


Independent Feminist Filmmaking; 
Women and Pornography; Film 
and Feminism in Germany II; 
Women's Filmmaking in India; 

T^a*TTTT„-*TT^rV..H/wmJ.«~L.'". ..t 


US subs: 4 issues, 
Abroad: 4 issues, 

PO Box 865 
Berkeley CA 94701 



Our Guide to Media on Reproductive Rights lists films, 
videotapes and slideshows for education and organizing on abor- 
tion, sterilization, contraception, childcare, gay and lesbian rights, 
teenage sexuality, reproductive hazards, and more. With tips on 
how to organize a successful program. 

Produced by Media Network and the Reproductive Rights Na- 
tional Network, in cooperation with The Film Fund. 

Order for $1 per copy (inquire for bulk sales) from Media Net- 
work, 208, West 13 St., New York, NY 10011; (212) 620-0877. 

MEDIA NETWORK helps people who are 
working for social change find and use films, 
videotapes and slideshows to further their 



MILLENNIUM FILM JOURNAL is a publication, 
issued three times per year, and dedicated to 
avant-garde theory and practice. It provides 
a forum for discussion and debate in this coun- 
try and abroad. 

vidual/$16.00 Institutions and Foreign. Two Years: 
$20.00 lndividual/$25.00 Institutions and Foreign. 

No. 12 Fall/Winter 1982-1983 


66 East 4th Street (212) 673-0090 

New York, N.Y. 10003 

l Jt i>« X M JC ii 


Women filmmakers from all countries are asked 
to contribute to a compilation film on female erot- 
icism. Complete a 3-minuteSuper-8 or16mm film 
of erotic content and form and mail before De- 
cember 1984 to: 

Barbara Hammer 
Women's International Film P.O. Box 694 
P.O. Box 2446 Cathedral Station 

Berkeley, Cal. 94702 New York, N.Y. 10025 

The film will be compiled with filmmaker's name 
(or anonymous if desired) and country. 

t w r T f »' •"• 


Sponsored by Experimental Intermedia Foundation 
Curated by Amy Greenfield and Elaine Summers 

Featuring exciting current and rare film- dance works 
by about 35 artists. 

At the Public Theatre, New York City 
November 29 to December 11, 1983 

For more information, call (212) 966-3367 


(Letters continued from p. 93) 

Dear Heretics, 

I'm not a radical, 

not usually. 
Not art 

it wasn't "art". . . 
I took them 

(not quite like Luther 

nor any other proclamation-maker) 
I want you to know — 

expansive of me, 

populist-political of me, 
and put them up 

on the walls. 
1 tore out one leaf, 

then another, 

the personal-political, 

the messages — 

here, see. 
I covered the walls 

with them 

social expectations aside, 

external factors, 

serious consideration 

of meaning aside 

(now really). . . 
I papered the walls practically, 

with Heresies' expressions — 

organizing myself, 

or community organizing? 

defacing the niceties, 

making a "democracy wall" 

with these heresies, 

at our YWCA. 

Joan Van de Water 
Kenmore, New York 

Editors' Note: Received on the blank page from 
Heresies Issue 14. 


HERESIES is an idea-oriented journal devoted to the examination of art and politics 
from a feminist perspective. We believe that what is commonly called art can have a politi- 
cal impact, and that in the making of art and of all cultural artifacts our identities as 
women play a distinct role. We hope that HERESIES will stimulate dialogue around radi- 
cal political and aesthetic theory, as well as generate new creative energies among women. 
It will be a place where diversity can be articulated. We are committed to broadening the 
definition and function of art. 

HERESIES is published by a collective of feminists, some of whom are also socialists, 
marxists, lesbian feminists, or anarchists; our fields include painting, sculpture, writing, 
anthropology, literature, performance, art history, architecture, filmmaking, photography, 
and video. While the themes of the individual issues will be determined by the collective, 
each issue will have a different editorial staff, composed of women who want to work on 
that issue as well as members of the collective. HERESIES provides experience for women 
who work editorially, in design and in production. An open evaluation meeting will be held 
after the appearance of each issue. HERESIES will try to be accountable to and in touch 
with the international feminist community. 

As women, we are aware that historically the connections between our lives, our arts, 
and our ideas have been suppressed. Once these connections are clarified, they can func- 
tion as a means to dissolve the alienation between artist and audience, and to understand 
the relationship between art and politics, work and workers. As a step toward a demystifi- 
cation of art, we reject the standard relationship of criticism to art within the present 
system, which has often become the relationship of advertiser to product. We will not 
advertise a new set of genius-products just because they are made by women. We are not 
committed to any particular style or aesthetic, nor to the competitive mentality that per- 
vades the art world. Our view of feminism is one of process and change, and we feel that in 
the process of this dialogue we can foster a change in the meaning of art. 

HERESIES Collective: Lyn Blumenthal, Sandra De Sando, Vanalyne Green, Michele 
Godwin, Sue Heinemann, Elizabeth Hess, Lyn Hughes, Kay Kenny, Nicky Lindeman, 
Lucy R. Lippard, Sabra Moore, Cecilia Vicuna, Holly Zox. 

Associate Members: Ida Applebroog, Patsy Beckert, Joan Braderman, Cynthia Carr, Mary 
Beth Edelson, Su Friedrich, Janet Froelich, Harmony Hammond, Joyce Kozloff, Arlene 
Ladden, Melissa Meyer, Marty Pottenger, Carrie Rickey, Elizabeth Sacre, Miriam Scha- 
piro, Amy Sillman, Joan Snyder, Elke Solomon, Pat Steir, May Stevens, Michelle Stuart, 
Susana Torre, Elizabeth Weatherford, Sally Webster, Nina Yankowitz. 

Staff: Sandra De Sando (Circulation Manager), Sue Heinemann (Production), Patricia 
Jones (Coordinator). 

Our thanks to all who supported our 1982 art benefit, especially Frank 
Marino Gallery and the artists: A. Adams, J. Allyn, I. Applebroog, T. Arai, 
H. Aylon, N. Azara, N. Becker, L. Benglis, S. Bernstein, L.M. Blocton, 
L. Blumenthal, E. Borstein, L. Bourgeois, M. Brofsky, V. Browne, C. Bruce, 

D. Byars, M. Cappelletto, C. Carr, Catti, Colette, M. Connor, J. Culbertson, 
B. Damon, N. Davidson, S. De Sando, S. Draney, M. Edelheit, M.B. Edel- 
son, H. Feigenbaum, J. Feinberg, S. Fellman, L. Fishman, A. Flack, 
M. Fox, D. Freedman, N. Fried, S. Fuerst, S. Gellis, M. Godwin, L. Gold- 
berg, E. Golden, D. Green, V. Green, J. Gross, H. Hammond, S. Heine- 
mann, P. Hellman, D. Henes, J. Henry, M. Herr, E. Hess, C. Hill- 
Montgomery, K. Horsfield, L. Hughes, P. Janto, V. Jaramillo, S. Jenkins, 
B. Johnson, M. Kendall, K. Kenny, M. King, G. Klein, H. Korman, 
J. Kozloff, L. Kramer, B. Kruger, E. Kulas, D. Kurz, B. Lane, E. Lanyon, 
S.B. Lederman, L. Lee, D. Levin, MX. Levine, N. Linn, J. Logemann, 
R. Mayer, A. Mendieta, M. Meyer, K. Millett, M. Miss, B. Moore, S. Moore, 

E. Murray, L. Mussmann, B. Naidus, A. Neel, D. Nelson, P. Nenner, 
L. Newman, P. Norvell, H. Oji, S. Payne, L. Peer, H. Pindell, A. Pitrone, 
L. Porter, B. Quinn, F. Ringgold, A. Robinson, A.M. Rousseau, E. Sacre, 
M. Schapiro, C. Schneemann, J. Semmel, A.L. Shapiro, D. Shapiro, 
K. Shaw, A. Sillman, C. Simpson, L. Simpson, M. Smith, S. Smith, 
J. Snider, J. Snyder, E. Solomon, N. Spero, A. Sperry, A. Steckel, P. Steir, 
M. Stevens, S. Straus, M. Strider, M. Stuart, C. Tardi, P. Tavins, M. Tem- 
kin, C. Thea, M.L. Ukeles, C. Vicuna, A. Walsh, J. Washburn, K. Webster, 
M. Weisbord, S. Whitefeather, B. Wilde, H. Wilke, F. Winant, N. Yanko- 
witz, Zarina. 

Thanks also to Lynda Benglis, Harmony Hammond, Joyce Kozloff, Eliza- 
beth Murray, Alice Neel, Howardena Pindell, and Michelle Stuart for 
donating prints to our recent raffle, and to Laurie Carlos, Lenora Cham- 
pagne, Vanalyne Green, and Jessica Hagedorn for performing at our show 
"Classified" at the New Museum. Finally, thanks for much-needed contri- 
butions from Stephanie Hammerschlag Bernheim, Stephen Blum, Leonard 
Blumberg, Judy Brodsky, Anne Casale, Sandra De Sando, Lucius and Eva 
Eastman Fund, Lucille Goodman, Betsy Hasegawa, Elizabeth Hess, Ida 
Kohlmeyer, Vernon and Margaret Lippard, Miriam Maharrey, Jane Rubin, 
Francine San Giovanni, Miriam Schapiro, Kendall Shaw, Ralph E. Shikes, 
Amy Brook Snider, Nancy Spero, Marie-Monique Steckel, Joan Watts, 
Jeff Weinstein, and Betty Yancey. 

No. 17: Women's Groups — Time to Raise Hell! Projects and plans from 
progressive political and cultural groups all over the world. An action- 
oriented issue with suggestions for organizing and mobilizing the public. 
No. 18: Acting Up! Women in Theater and Performance Art: Please send 
us essays, original scripts, technical designs, documentation, visuals, and 
interviews exploring the diverse work by women in contemporary theater 
and performance art. Deadline: NOW. 

No. 19: Mothers, Mags and Movie Stars — Feminism and Class: We want 
cultural/social/economic analyses of the institutions that shape the mother- 
daughter relationship — to use this relationship to understand family, class, 
and culture. How do women's magazines and movie stars point up issues 
mothers and daughters are in conflict about (or agree on)? Deadline: Fall 

No. 20: Satire: A remedy to conventional media presentations of women. 
Send us parodies of food and fashion features, "celebrity" interviews, how- 
to info, advice to the lovelorn, feninist comics, political "ads" — anything 
that laughs. Deadline: Fall 1983. 

Guidelines for Contributors. Each issue of HERESIES has a specific theme 
and all material submitted should relate to that theme. Manuscripts should 
be typed double-spaced and submitted in duplicate. Visual material should 
be submitted in the form of a slide, xerox or photograph. We will not be 
responsible for original art. All material must be accompanied by a 
stamped, self-addressed envelope for it to be returned. We do not publish 
reviews or monographs on contemporary women. We do not commission 
articles and cannot guarantee acceptance of submitted material. HERE- 
SIES pays a small fee for published material. 


p. 22 "Looking Backward ..." by May Stevens: The missing line in the 

second column should read: "playing? A playing at toughness, verbal 

violence from this ..." 

p. 30 "Love Story" by Elena Poniatowski: In the second to last paragraph, 

the word "proctological" should be "proctolalic" (a made-up word). 

p. 54 "An American Black Woman ..." by Howardena Pindell: The eighth 

line should read: "Black woman representing. . . " 


Collective Editorial Statement 

Nicaragua Journal 

Victoria Schultz 


Three-Minute Heroes 

Annie Goldson 



Lynda Barry 


The Correct Screen-to-Viewer Ratio 

Sherry Millner 


Diva Under Glass 

Michelle Parkerson 


Born in Flames 

Lizzie Borden 


Red Hot Video Firebombings 

TheWimmin's Fire Brigade 


Occupational Hazards 

Nicky Lindeman 


$11,000 Is Not Enough! 

Edith Becker and Diana Agosta with Janice Blood, 
Cara DeVito, Christine Noschese, and Brenda Singleton 



Erika Rothenberg 


Clit Tapes 

Maureen Nappi 


Ladies Home Channels 

DeeDee Halleck 



Carole Glasser 


Horror Movie 

Erika Miliziano 



Su Friedrich 


Frauen und Film and Feminist Film Culture in 
West Germany 

Miriam Hansen 


Loose Threads: Excerpts from Catholic Girl in a 
Calvinized World 

Micki McGee 


Video Art and the Marketplace 
Or: My Life As a Video Disk 

Joan Jubela 

Lois Weber's Sacred Duty 

Lisa L. Rudman 

Gently Down the Stream 

Su Friedrich 



The Women Behind the Camera 46 

Julianne Burton and Zuzana Pick with Norma de Izque, 
Josefina Jordan, Brenda Martinez, Berta Navarro, Angelina 
Vasquez, and Tizuka Yamasaki 

Black Hairpeace 51 

Loretta Campbell and Grace Williams 

Narrative Is Narrative: So What Is New? 52 

Nina Fonoroff and Lisa Cartwright 

Neither Personal Nor Best 57 

Cathy Joritz 

Reinventing Our Image: 58 

Eleven Black Women Filmmakers 

Loretta Campbell 

Her Image Fades As Her Voice Rises 63 

Lis Rhodes and Felicity Sparrow 

On the Way Back from the Movies 66 

A TV Movie 

Phyllis Koestenbaum 

The Spitting Image 67 

Tilly Lloyd 

If I Ever Stop Believing ... 68 

Diana Agosta and Barbara Osborn with Christine Choy, 
Michelle Citron, Margia Kramer, Deborah May, Mira Nair, 
and Deborah Shaffer 

From Pathos to Politics 73 

Diana Agosta and Martha Wallner 

A Personal Decade 77 

Susan Kleckner 

The Cinema 79 

Julia J. Blumenreich 

Clara Bow (The "IT" Girl) 79 

Merry Harris 

in our own image: fragments of a filmscript 80 

Lucy Panteli 

The Case of the Missing Mother: 81 

Maternal Issues in Vidor's Stella Dallas 

E. Ann Kaplan 

Native Vision 86 

Cecilia Vicuna with Sandra Osawa and Peggy Barnett 

Light Reading 88 

Lis Rhodes 

Women's Media Resource Guide 91 

Edith Becker 

Using the Public Library 91 

Anita Bologna 

Letters 93 

ISSN 0146-3411